When is Winemaking Art?

OK, for you collectors that have a large cellar that you cherish, this is for you…

Age-Worthy Wines

I am often surprised by critic’s characterizations of wines that will age well. I see five years, ten years, thrown out there all the time, without a clear justification. I want to know WHY a wine deserves to be called “AGE-WORTHY”. No, there is no mystery to the educated palate that is inscrutable to the rest of the world (unlike what some critics would like you to believe). I think most who have already been introduced to wine and lay down at least a few bottles know that red wines without acidity and tannins, do not handle bottle aging well. What I almost never hear is a discussion of balance and structure. This is what defines age-worthy wines. Tasting notes for wines the industry typically views as age-worthy should focus on this aspect. I have not experienced many wines that magically “come together” in the bottle. When some element is missing, or one aspect overshadows the rest, more time in the bottle will just make what was suspect in the first place, a more subdued version of the same mess.

Art in Wine

So, where does art fit into this picture? When a winemaker can coax a balance of acidity/tannins/alcohol/aromas-flavors/textures from a variable fruit crop, year after year. Any winery can make a fruit bomb, an easy drinker, or leverage an appelation’s fame – like Rutherford’s dusty tannins… but winemaking talent and the quality it produces is most often evident in balance, structure and harmony. It is like Vivaldi writing for a string quartet, the greater understanding of how the parts join to comprise the whole.

So, shouldn’t the industry be helping you to recognize these balanced, structured wines that you can still pop now if you must? I am at a loss to understand why there is so little mention of this topic in the majority of professional critics’ tasting notes. Having developed an appreciation for the issue, the only wines that truly send a shiver down my spine are these perfectly balanced young gems. I have almost a reverence for the talent required to produce a red wine that, while accessible young, still has tremendous aging potential. If you need an example, the 2009 Sassicaia I tasted recently struck me as such a wine. Perhaps you can help engage the industry in this discussion? It feels lonely out there on this topic…

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