Friday, January 05, 2007

I Will Serve No Wine Before Its Time.

This recent article by Eric Asimov, put me in mind of two things:

1.) I am terribly jealous of Eric Asimov.
2.) Most wine enthusiasts reach a point in their disease where they begin considering keeping wine for aging.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a large underground cavern. Hell, I don’t even have a basement in my house.

Cellaring wine can mean stashing a couple of cases in a closet, purchasing a wine storage unit or excavating your backyard. I’ve been reading about Dr. Debs' venture into wine cellaring (also slightly jealousy inducing) over at Good Wine Under $20.

My “cellar” consists of a stack of wooden wine boxes where I stash bottles that I think could benefit from a couple years of rest. The longest I expect wines to stay in “the stack” is five years. My one nod to proper storage conditions is that “the stack” is located in the most temperature-consistent, dark and quiet corner of my tiny bungalow.

Although I know I’m not keeping my wines in optimal conditions. I’m comforted by the knowledge that much wine is stored under less-than-ideal conditions and somehow survives.

I’ve mentioned my friend, Steve, and his large, improperly stored collection. He does his best to treat his wine right, but it’s hardly perfect. All the same, I’ve drunk some amazing bottles that were stored for a decade or more under those conditions. He’ll readily admit that he loses some bottles, but everyone who stores wine, even under pristine conditions, will say the same thing.

One day, I’d like to invest in some sort of proper cellar, but for the time being “the stack” will have to do. As a rule, I don’t stash expensive bottles, so there’s never much to lose. And since I’m not planning to keep them more than five years, there’s less of a chance that they will go bad on me.

All that being said, I am fortunate enough to have experienced the joy of drinking properly aged wine. There’s just nothing like tasting the magical effects of just the right amount of time and oxygen.

After reading Eric’s article, I remembered that I had a bottle of a 1994 Barolo that needed drinking. The last one I opened had turned bad, so I was fully expecting to send this one down the drain.

But, I’m an optimist, so I popped the cork, poured it in a decanter and went to work whipping up a simple red sauce with meat to serve over pasta.

The cork was in perfect condition—one good sign. The aroma coming out of the decanter was pleasant—another good sign.

The wine was Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo DOCG 1994. This isn’t an expensive bottling and ’94 wasn’t a stellar vintage (in fact, it was a lousy vintage). But someone recommended it to me, so I grabbed a couple bottles.

I didn’t store it either, but I know the distributor that did is one of the few around here that actually has a temperature-controlled warehouse. It spent around three years in "the stack."

So how was it?

It was lovely. It probably was a little worse for the wear, although I can’t really say because I never tasted it young.

The color was a light garnet/brick. The nose was all alcohol at first but gradually gave way to cinnamon, dried cherry and wet earth. The flavor was cherry, cedar, a little leather and some very muted spice. It went great with the simple, rustic pasta dish.

It was subdued, subtle and dignified. It was a really nice change from the boisterous young wines I normally drink. It might have gotten better with a few more years of age, but maybe not.

Luckily, I don’t stress over such things.


Dr. Debs said...

Hey, John! You're cellar sounds an awful lot like mine, actually. And yes, to change it up from a 2004 red blend to a 1994 barolo just goes to show you how great wine really is, doesn't it? And you are absolutely right: pristine cellar conditions are wonderful, especially if you are collecting for an investment or for resale where provenance is as important for wine as an Old Master painting. But for you and me? Boxes in the closet are usually just fine.

farley said...

I finally broke down and bought one of those wine coolers. Nothing fancy, mind you--I had to attach my own thermometer with little pieces of velcro. But it's heavy enough that it makes my habit of moving too often that much more of a pain.
It's small enough that when I buy something new, I feel like a bad parent showing favoritism as I remove a less worthy bottle and replace it.