Middle Aged Wine: The Good, Bad and Worst News
Here’s the Good News: If wine critics, wine reviewers and wine publications did review wines that are 6-10 years past their vintage dates many consumers would love that.
Here’s the Worst News: If consumers did have access to reviews of wines 6-10 years past their vintage date, they probably couldn’t find them to buy anyway.
What a service it would be, educationally and practically, if committed wine lovers could find reviews of wines that are not brand new. How many of us right now have wines in their cellar that are 6, 8, 10 years old, that we just haven’t gotten to drinking. It would be a real service to have a sense of where they were in their evolution. Furthermore, for those of us that read reviews simply to educate ourselves and not merely in preparation to spend money, we could round out our academic education through exposure to the characteristics normally found in semi-well aged wine.
The fact that these kinds of wine reviews are almost never published tells us that those who review wines are working primarily on behalf of the producers, rather than the drinkers—whether they plan this or not. Current and now traditional marketing cycles in the wine industry force producers to begin to sell vintages no more than six months or a year after bottling. And this is, then, when bottles go out to the critics and publications.
This fact produces a number of outcomes:
1. Wines are often produced to shine, as it were, when young.
2. Reviews of wines that are so young often tell only a one-sided story
3. The notation on many reviews noting that the wine will “drink well between Year and Year” are half guesses, not solid guidelines.
4. Consumers have it instilled in their mind that wine is best drunk young.
This is mainly moot though, isn’t it. As I mentioned, it’s extraordinarily difficult to walk into a wine shop right now and pick up a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir or Bordeaux or Argentine Malbec or Barolo. In fact, if a producer did want to hold back their vintages many more years than normal before releasing them, the look on shop owners face would tell this store: “What the heck is wrong with this wine that they could not sell it and they still have it in inventory…I’m not going to be the dope to buy this dreck.”
It’s a shame. So many California Cabernets and Pinots and Zins, for example, are absolutely delicious at 10 years of age and in fact deliver a different kind of experience. That experience is quite often much more appropriate with food too.
But it’s up to us, the consumer. We are the ones that will need to be responsible for examining the middle-aged wines, the wines that are 6, 8 or 10 years out of vintage. We can neither rely on retailers carrying any real supply of aged wines and in turn, no wine publications or reviewers will attempt to cover the subject of aged wines on anything like a regular basis.