Expectations of Averageness
They can "do in" a wine or elevate it to heights we never expected. But sometimes our expectations for a wine are met so perfectly that there can be no lamenting, no elation…just acknowledgment of what we expected. Personally, I prefer to be elated or disappointed by a wine.
This was driven home this past weekend as I broke open a couple bottles of wine:
1996 Rochioli Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (Russian River Valley)
1996 Mondavi To-Kalon I Block Fume Blanc (Napa Valley)
Ten year old Sauvignon Blancs.
My expectation for these wines was that while they would be drinkable, they would not necessary be mind blowing in any way. I expected they would have lost their fruit, but retained much of their acidity. I expected that they would throw of interesting secondary aromas and flavors that fell into the realm of coconut, old hay, caramel, and maybe a little lychee nut or unripe mango.
This is exactly what I got.
My partner that night, an unabashed advocate of fruit forward, silky powerhouse wines couldn’t figure out why he’d ever want to drink these wines after a decade in the bottle. My suggestion that they would be magnificent with a bit of Flan fell on deaf ears. However, my contention about this possible pairing pushed him (out of pride of his opinion?) to go to his cellar and pull out a recently released late harvest wine to demonstrate exactly what would go well with Flan.
The Rochioli had held up better than the Mondavi. It showed a bit more fruit, more acid and experienced less oxidation. I suspect there are ten year-old Sauvignon Blancs out there that have held up better than these two, both of which were considered at the time among the best California SBs produced. I’ll be looking for those other well-aged SBs and I’ll bring only moderate expectations to their consumption. It’s the prudent thing to do. One the one hand, It’s likely my moderate expectations that the wines will be average. But on the chance that they really soar, I’ll have the opportunity to revel in something far beyond what I expected. Which is really what I like about trying these older wines that are not expected to be great.