“When is the Wine at its Peak?”
Customers ask when our wines are at its peak frequently. We want to help everyone have a better understanding of how our wines taste over time and help you build the cellar of your dreams (hopefully filled with our wines, too!). Therefore, to cellar or not to cellar? That is the question.
Why do we age wine?
According to the adage “aging like a fine wine”, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Young wine can be harsh. Specifically, oxygen has a slow massaging effect when it enters through the cork. It rounds out the harsh edges of tannic youthful wine. This takes time. Fruit concentration slowly morphs into flavours of leather, coffee, tobacco, nuttiness, and earth. Tannins soften to create a smoother and seamless drinking experience. Indeed, it is something that you will never forget when right, once you’ve tried it.
Age-ability.. How Do You Know?
Wines of age-ability have 3 things in common: tannins, fruit concentration, and acidity. We’re fortunate that we have warm days for ripe tannins to develop with fruit concentration and cold nights to retain fresh natural acidity in the Okanagan. Moreover, sugar preserves when there is a lot of sugar. Keep in mind that having little residual sugar can be extremely dangerous if the wine is not well stabilize before being bottled. Additionally, in red wines, we are mostly looking at dry red wines under 2 g/L. At Le Vieux Pin, we specialize in drier wines, so that doesn’t pertain to us, but if you’re excited to have a balanced cellar of red and white, sparkling and still, dry and sweet, it is good to know.
Winemaker’s and Grape Grower’s Intention
Take note of the winemaker’s and grape grower’s intention too. Is the winery growing grapes and using practices in the cellar to create a wine built for aging? Does the wine you want to collect have a track record of developing with age?
The Track Record
The most famous age worthy wines in the world have that track record. People consume wines in their youth and with age (in some cases for hundreds of years) to know that these wines are built for this purpose. We need to keep in mind that these wines are a small portion of the global output of wine. Today, wine is enjoyed within two or three years after purchase. 90% of wine purchased is consumed within the next 24 hours and 95% of wine purchased is consumed within a week. Wineries around the world are making wine to feed that segment of purchasers. Not all wine is created equal!
If the track record isn’t there, make one. One of the ways to do that is to leave your trust in a wine journalist who has tasted the wine. Another option is to make the investment to try it yourself. Once you try the wine and have that “aaahaaa” experience, you will know whether or not you want to collect the wine. Please remember, “I heard that this is a good producer” will only take you so far especially when you don’t have proven trust in the source. Your palate is your best friend, just try it.
Other Things to Consider…
Here are some things to consider once you’ve made the decision to start this journey. Does the winery have a house style? Is it winemaker driven? Has the winemaker changed multiple times over the years, can you taste that difference? This is part of what makes tasting older vintages interesting on top of the regular vintage variation. You can taste the unique differences from year to year.
Aging wine like they did in the olden days maybe a thing of the past. The mentality has changed. Your grandparents bought wine for you to drink during your life. Nowadays, very few people can make this dream a reality. Modern living doesn’t allow for this. Country homes with cold cellars are few and far between. Have you looked at real estate in Osoyoos? Homes with fruit cellars or cold rooms for canning or aging wine are rare. You literally have to tear down and build your own dream cellar, what a shame.
If we don’t have space, and we don’t have cold rooms, how can you age wine? You can always insulate a room and make it a wine cellar. You could always build a new house with a dedicated wine cellar. Alternatively, a significantly cheaper investment is to buy a wine fridge to control the climate around your bottles.
Before we discuss a methodology for aging wine, we should discuss the risks in aging wine. Though we try to buy the highest quality natural cork, bad things can happen. That special bottle of wine you’ve been saving for 10 years could have been bad from the beginning. People often talk about corked wine, or the scientific TCA, Trichloroanisole. It creates a mouldy, wet cardboard / newspaper-like aroma in the wine. It is void of the fruitiness of the wine. For those who are VERY sensitive to finding this fault in wine often describe the smallest parts per million where the moldy aromas aren’t perceivable. The wine smells like the fruit are completely sucked out of it.
We also have premature oxidation where the cork doesn’t properly seal within the bottle. Too much oxygen enters the bottle and pre-maturely oxidizes the wine. This can create sour flavours and aromas, reminding you of vinegar. To some, it feels like drinking walnuts and water.
Warning: World of Faults
There is world of wine faults out there, enough to create the discussion of many books, but what we need to take away from this is that there are risks. You could potentially buy a bottle that was bad from the beginning. You need to know that these are the risks in aging wine, and part of the reason why buying multiples allows you to hedge against these risks.
The first thing you need to know is that there are many was to do this. No one way is right or wrong, but this could be a good place to start.
Taste the Curve
Buy multiples of the same wine every year. A minimum of 3 is important. You can have 1 for consumption in youth, instant gratification is important so that you have the best chance to leave the other bottles alone. The importance of this is that it is nice to see where the wine starts. When you bring the wine home, leave a bottle on the counter, enjoy it so that bottle two can wait 3 years and bottle 3 wait another 3 years after that. This way you’ve been able to taste at youth, 3 years of age and 6 years of age. Over time as you add to your collection you will have a better idea of at which age you like to drink said wine.
You will get to taste the wine along its aging curve. Furthermore, you will find out if you prefer the wine aged or in in its youth. Young wine show more fruit and have firmer tannins to pair with food. You may also find that wines might start to get interesting at a certain year because you’ve tasted along its aging curve.
Build Your Cellar According to You
To conclude, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, with vintage variation you will figure out if you prefer cooler vintages from that producer, or warmer vintages. If you do this enough, you will remember tasting it at different times and fine tune how you enjoy the wine in the future. These are the joys in creating your own cellar. Your cellar is personal to your taste, how you enjoy wine, and how you live life.
Our next pieces are dedicated to the wines we make and how they age over time.
Write in, tell us your experience with aging our wines. We love to hear about how you’re enjoying your own wine cellaring journey.
Enjoy in good health.
Written by Alex Russo, edited by Nicole Lee