Rob Moshein - Austin Wine Guy
Benign neglect kills. Or, Open that Bottle.
August 31, 2010So, the other day, Yr Mst Hmbl & Obdt Svt here was chatting with a bud, who, naturally enough asked about Mom's passing, and related stuff. I started to describe the process of cleaning out her house.
The hall closet was crammed with wine bottles. Seriously about 50 bottles in there. This was the stuff my Dad refused to open because "it was too good" for whatever occasion I suggested we pop something. I was rarely even allowed to look through it all. "Stay out of my good wine" the old man would bark at me. "Here $20 go to the store and buy something to have with dinner…"
My older sister gave me, logically, the chore of going through it all, to see if anything was worth keeping. At first, it was just seriously old crap. A Sutter Home Zinfandel from 1972. Louis Martini Chardonnay 1966. I half wondered if the winery might want the bottle for their museum. Mouton Cadet Red from 1968….I laughed. Then, a '59 Chateau Bellgrave, Grand Cru Classe….My birth year, but the bottle was barely 2/3 full, the label torn and stained. What a crime this had to go into the trash. Three bottles of Chassagne Montrachet 1982 that were dark brown…six bottles of Grand Cru classed single estate German Rieslings from the very fine '76 vintage, that were even more brown than the Chassagne. I started to tear up. By the end of the hour or so, the only things salvageable were a few recent vintage bottles of Dom Perignon and some very fine Cognac.
I was even more depressed. "What a waste" was all I could think as my younger sister poured the acrid brown swill down the kitchen sink… The beautiful experiences that were missed. The joys of these good wines lost forever. They had gone from "my good wine" to trash, from benign neglect.
There is the instinct to hoard and "age" your best wine. I know, I do it myself. However, the days of fine old cellars of Grand Cru Burgundy and 1er Cru Bordeaux resting gently for 20 plus years are simply not a viable part of today's lifestyle. Sure I keep great bottles down for ten year or so. I have a bottle of '82 vintage Port that has a date with 2012 for opening. But, I've learned the importance of enjoying my great wines a bit younger. I'd rather say, "Wow, this is good but had years left!" than "Darn I should have opened this one five years ago…"
My bud John Roenigk at the Austin Wine Merchant and I had lunch last week, I brought a bottle of 2000 Santenay along. He said "Wow, I never get to have old wines anymore. All I try are the recent vintages. I have really forgotten what its like to drink older wine. I think I've lost my taste for it." I was a bit stunned, but it made total sense of course.
It is, after all, an expensive proposition to hold your wine for ten years. I still believe that it is a worthwhile one, and I do try to put down five or six bottles a year for future special occasions. Let's face it, pulling out a friend's birth year wine for his recent 30th birthday was very much cool. It's one reason why I love the Wine Curmudgeon Paul too, for his cellar and his joy of sharing it with me. Just remember that you have to make the storage as optimal as possible: cool, dark, temperature stable and humidity stable.
So, don't get caught up in the vintage hype either. Is the 2009 Bordeaux a "great" vintage. Yessir. I was there and tasted it. Does that mean that the 2008 and 2007 or 2006 are "bad"? Not just no but HELL NO. They are very fine vintages. But the real question is, are the 2009s worth the 50% extra price over the prices for the same Chateaux from the previous few years? Not in my opinion. Price vs quality is important, and the subject of its own, upcoming, blog.
In the meanwhile,
Drink up Austin. Drink up Gentle Reader wherever you are. Don't kill your wine from benign neglect.
Austin Wine Guy