Good things come to those who wait.
The best and most memorable wine experiences have almost always centered around an older, mature wine. Mature is usually defined, depending on region, as between 10 and 100 years old.
While not every wine drinker will agree with the premise that matured and aged wines are better because today’s world is more for the here and now, and many have little patience to collect and wait ... and wait ... and wait some more.
Younger, or newer wine drinkers have also grown accustomed to fruitier, young drink-me-now wines that sweeter whites offer, as well as reds that have Mega Purple added, ensuring the same fruit taste year after year. Few wine drinkers look forward to vintage changes, unable to understand true grape characteristics based on growing conditions.
Fortunately, our palates change as we age, and therefore we start enjoying the well-matured wines softer, more balanced, conditions.
For wine, nothing can replace Father Time -- not even all the new quick-aging gadgets out there in the marketplace. Wine is a living a thing. With time, a wine grows to be more than what it began as. Older, correctly cellared wine is history in a bottle, as well as something whose value can rise with each year.
Only a properly cellared and aged wine can show its true complexities to the wine lover. The wine’s palate texture, aromatics and flavor profiles offer unequaled tasting notes that a young wine can never offer.
I know there are a lot of people who say they can’t taste the difference between an $8 bottle and a $100 bottle of wine. It is not the price of the wine that makes the difference, it is the age of the wine, as well as the region of the aged wine. I will take a 1961 Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux over any here-and-now young bottle of wine on the shelf, regardless of cost.
If you are ready to start collecting wine, here are some things to guide you along the way:
Less than 1 percent of the world’s wines are made to age. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the best varietals to look for in age worthiness. Next, is to look for specific regions and producers.
Each year, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator and Robert Parker release vintage charts to guide with regions, AVAs and vintage years that are age-worthy. Their Top 100 annual printings are a good look at the producers for beginners.
Be on the hunt for these picks as soon as you read the edition. Advanced collectors have already set up a relationship with buyers and retailers, and fine restaurants have already put dibs on their stock. The next option is to buy vintage wines to add to your collection through auction houses.
Once you have begun to buy wines, without proper cellaring, it won’t mean much.
Wine is a living thing. It changes with each passing year to evolve to its peak. It may take years, or decades, for the molecular structure changes to begin, but they do occur.
Keeping your wine at a perfect temperature (55 degrees) is the big key to properly aging your wines. Never allow it to increase, or it halts the molecular changes and will descend rapidly in quality.
Your collection is a true investment that can increase its value as supply goes away and demand is up. Keep all of your receipts. One-owner wines with proven cellaring become highly sought-after.
One of the first sight changes you will notice over time is the color. The deep purple gives way to a garnet color, that will change to a brick color, then to orange at its peak. When choosing a wine for cellaring, look at color. The deepest, inky color is high in anthocyamins and pigments, along with a high concentration of fruits.
Color isn’t always a factor since Mega Purple is added into so many young wines. If you’re unsure if Mega Purple has been added, when you pour the wine into a glass, the rim of the wine will be bright purple. The wine should also be lower in acid, but higher in pH. An unworthy wine to age will be flipped in numbers. There are test strips available to buy for checking these levels.
When you try an aged wine, the first thing you will notice is the softer tannins. The molecular change alters the structure to a mellow and soft taste that is very different from a young wine. Polymerization has taken place, and the new molecular structures have become longer.
The size of the tannin molecules increase or decrease with these polymer changes, making the wine feel smoother and silkier on the palate. Young and newer wine drinkers prefer the heavier fruits and aromas, but the mature wine drinkers appreciate the wine as it gives way to flavors and aromas of tobacco, truffles, earth, smoke or woods.
One more thing to remember is this guideline: if it takes 10 years to reach its peak, it takes 10 more years to reach full decline.
The most expensive bottle of wine sold at auction, excluding charity events, is a 1947 Cheval Blanc at $304,375. It is the only known bottle in existence.
Next is a 1907 Heidseck sold for $275,000. These bottles were found in the remains of a ship sunk by a German torpedo while the bottles were making their way to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
A Lafite Rothschild 1869 sold for $230,000 to a collector who now owns the three that exist today.
Chateau Margaux 1787 sold for a mere $225,000, down from its $500,000 price tag. That's because the insurance company wouldn’t pay the full price. The bottle was authenticated to come from Thomas Jefferson’s personal wine collection.
Winery in Review
Opus One is a joint partnership between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau mouton Rothschild in Pauillac, France, and Robert Mondavi of Napa Valley, California. These two represent the best of Old World and New World collaborating to create a beautiful representation of time in a bottle.
The essence of time is expressed by the character of each vintage. Place, known as terroir, represents the geography, the climate and the essential human element which is captured in the wine’s balance between power and finesse, structure and texture.
Opus One 2015
From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: Blended of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec and displaying a medium to deep garnet-purple color, the Opus One 2015 Proprietary Red Wine is a sexy, beautiful spice-bomb, with tons of cinnamon stick, cloves, fenugreek and pepper notes springing forth over a core of mulberries, plum preserves, blackberry pie and fragrant earth plus a waft of lavender. The palate is big, voluptuous and totally decadent, with velvety tannins and just enough freshness framing the rich, spicy black fruits, finishing with a lovely perfumed lift. Rating: 96-98+
Opus One 2004
From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: Aged in 100% new French oak for 17 months and in the bottle for 14 months prior to release, the 2004 Opus One is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It boasts a dense ruby/purple color along with a sweet bouquet of lead pencil shavings, black currants and a hint of toasty oak. More evolved than usual, this full-bodied, opulent 2004 is part of the new wave of Opus Ones made under the administration of Philippe Dhalluin, the administrator of Mouton Rothschild, who has begun to exploit this estate’s enormous potential. This beauty can be drunk now or cellared for another 20 years. Rating: 96-98.
My review: Showing a lustrous dark ruby, the 2004 Opus One presents aromas of floral, cedar, black tea leaves, black pepper and brioche. A soft, creamy entry gives way to concentrated mid-palate; elements of cassis remain, and toffee and cocao round out the rich flavors of the wine. Available through private collectors, like myself.