Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The chicken or the egg dilemma

It happens all the time. We procrastinate by ignoring it or effortlessly solve by not thinking about it. Higher education. Planning vacation. Dumping girl(boy)-friend. Changing jobs. Paying off credit cards. Each time there is a choice what decision comes first. Money for education or a degree to earn them. Plane tickets or hotel reservation. New girl(boy)-friend or breaking up. Job offer or letter of resignation. Buying more stuff or paying off a balance. And whatever choice we make will affect the other one that follows.

Here is another the chicken or the egg dilemma that people who like wines shouldn’t ignore: aging wines. It’s no secret that top 5-10% of (particular varietals of white and red) wines develop into superior versions of themselves with age. While young wine may exhibit some of its qualities the process of aging makes wine more complex and balanced, enhances its bouquet and lengthens its finish. Without climate-controlled cellar (the chicken) properly aged wine is unlikely to happen. And without experiencing the effect of aging (the egg) one is unlikely to commit to moderate to significant investment cellar demands.

Without a cellar you would
  • have to drink your wines almost immediately
  • never know how amazing your wine could have become after 2-5 years or more.

Let me guess that if you
  • are still reading this blog and
  • don’t have a cellar and
  • didn’t go to online shopping to buy one yet
then you are ignoring this dilemma.

How about solving it by having an egg without hatching it (it’s just fair because the egg was first indeed)? I can offer at least four ways in order from more to less expensive. And you are free to stick to them for as long as you can both afford and enjoy it or decide to start your own cellar.

The simplest way to try a good aged wine is spending extra $100-200 at the restaurant on older vintages of Pinot, Syrah, etc. (Cabernet will likely command larger premium). Share your plan with sommelier so that she can offer best choices and you won’t end up with overpriced label instead. Of course you would have to find a restaurant with respectable wine list but advantage is that such places usually offer excellent food as well. Remember that even latest vintage is always behind current year, e.g. today we are seeing new releases of 2007 Syrah and 2009 Pinot Noir. This means that you need to go back to 2003-2007 vintages or older.

Next option is library wine tasting at a winery or buying a bottle of library wine from them. Library wine tasting commands higher fee than regular tastings but way less than a bottle of wine at the restaurant. Make sure it is a library wine and not a premium or reserve wine. The latter are for current releases of select and limited wines produced at the winery. If you buy a bottle and have it shipped you don’t have to travel to a wine country near (or not so near) you.

Similar option is finding good aged wine at a wine store or a wine bar where you live. You’ll get a sound advice (I hope) that way too.

2000 Twomey Merlot
and 2005 Rubicon Estate Cask
can age for 10 years or more in cellar
And lastly, if you have a friend (or friend of a friend and so on) who has a cellar (even better winery) then go for it: tell him or her how interested you are in tasting aged wine before starting your own cellar. People don’t drink their wines alone – at least people keeping wine cellars. Just remember to bring nice food pairing when invited.

Chances are you will discover whole new world in aged wines  and 5 years will never taste the same.

P.S. No need in a big investment into wine cellar that occupies half of your place or make you move to a cave. Small kitchen appliance or built-in wine coolers will suffice. You can even rent a wine storage instead. It’s yet to be proven that 100% of people starting that way end up with wine cellars occupying better part of their house but I wouldn’t bet against it.

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