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Young Wine Vs Old Wine

Over the last month I have opened a few wines, as one does, and this time it was a mixture of new and older vintages.

I often get this question – how long should I keep a wine before I drink it?

Anecdotally, in NZ the average time from purchase to consumption is about 30 minutes. So we are not all that great at cellaring.

Fresh, fruity wines such as sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, semillon and rosés are best consumed within about 2 years. Oak-aged white wines such as chardonnay will improve and become more complex over 5 years.

Most reds will soften and integrate over 5 to ten years.  Full-bodied tannic reds can last even longer.  But it’s all a bit of guesswork in my experience. The best idea is to buy six or a dozen and pop one open very six months to see how the wine is progressing.

But as one of my elderly tour clients once said, after being told to cellar a wine for 15 years: “Honestly, at my age I don’t even buy green bananas.”

Mission Vineyard Selection Pinot Gris 2014

At five years old, pretty well at its peak, but still has a lot of complex, aged characters. Smells like canned apricots. The palate is rich and oily with pineapple, quince, marmalade and almond, with a lengthy very dry finish

Gisselbrecht  Alsace Pinot Gris 2016

Fresh, fruity and fab. A French wine under screw cap – zut alors! Smells like honeysuckle and citrus blossom. Just nudging off-dry and at 13.5% alcohol. Flavours of nectarine, tonic water and ginger spice.

 Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012

A lovely example of what a bit of bottle age can do to a NZ pinot. Very gamey and savoury on the nose. In the mouth it’s all about soft tannins and earthy spice with mushroom, truffle, a hint of salty minerality.

Mudbrick Shepherds Point Waiheke Merlot / Cabernet / Petit Verdot 2017

A real youngster that I opened in error very late at night last week. Moving right along…

Nose of florals, spice rack and tar. Amazingly approachable as a fresh young thing. Palate of ripe blackberries, cassis, soft dusty tannins, spiced plum and a hint of Vegemite (in a good way).

Rod McDonald Quarter Acre Hawkes Bay Merlot / Malbec 2013

Again – a fab red that has developed secondary characters from a bit of bottle age.

Slightly earthy nose, with fruitcake and cherry.  In the mouth it’s warm ripe and soft with black berry fruits, earthy truffle, cassis and liquorice.

Phil is a wine writer and runs Waiheke Island Wine Tours in Auckland New Zealand

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