Anyone who has consumed a high quality wine at the peak of its maturity knows that the feeling is largely indescribable. Ageing quality wine to let it develop its complexity and evolve is what really separates wine from any other beverage and makes it superior to them all.
A mature high quality wine is no different from a quality human being in their prime – at once intelligent, full of personality, and with a sense of humor, but also wise and a balanced outlook on life honed over years. The kind of person that gets more attractive as you get to know them and are just great to be around. A good wine at its prime is exactly that. It might have been brilliant and full of youth and promise if you sampled it young. But if you put it away for a while and let it mature, it rough edges - high tannins or sharp acids perhaps – will settle down and develop beautiful secondary aromas and textures over time, all in harmony with each other. This wine will draw you in with the first look and sniff, and you will be hopelessly in love once you taste it.
Only a very small percentage of wine drinkers have actually had the opportunity to consume good quality wine with age (see my past column on ageing wine). Not to mention that a great majority of folks who do not understand wine even realize what aged wine is. This is not a judgment or an indictment – it is a fact.
I am often taken aback when I talk to folks who do not appreciate wine. I admit a strong bias towards wine appreciation and to thinking that people who do not appreciate wine just have not tried good wine. Empirically, I am correct very often. A big part of this is being able to appreciate quality wine that is aged.
Admittedly, the biggest hurdle to appreciating high quality aged wine is access. Quality wine at its peak is not easily found, and when it is found, it is expensive. And since it is expensive, most people – even those that can afford it will not venture to spend the $50 or $100, or more to explore. There’s also the option to buy wines young and age them (see my column on storing wine). This is where many people feel intimidated by their lack of wine knowledge. Why spend top dollar on something I cannot appreciate – goes the reasoning. One cannot fault that reasoning entirely.
Thankfully for the wine market, there are plenty of pretend connoisseurs, and wealthy and ignorant yet ostentatious folks who will buy wine just because it is expensive. But for the these folks, the market for fine wine will be limited to the minority of folks who can truly appreciate the nuances.
I have noticed that in some parts of the wine world – the city of Bordeaux comes to mind, there are wine bars that offer good aged wine by the glass that they preserve using the new machines which enable storage of open bottles with inert gasses. Here wishing for a proliferation of these bars everywhere and here’s encouraging you to try aged wine!
I welcome your thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @SFEnophile.