Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bringing Home a Young One

Se campu e non peru non vojgghiu u vidu jcchiu' festa du celu.

© 1967, Avco Embassy Pictures Corp
We all want it, don’t we? It seems that way, from all the pounding we get from television, movies, music, and society. That rush from the hunt, finding it, and taking it home to explore the mysteries of yet another gem. We’re an “I want what I want when I want it” world now. And we want it fresh and young and pretty.

Doesn’t matter if you are man or woman, it’s in our nature, trying to beat Heaven at its own game, making it count while we’re here. All those old ones, left to rot and smolder in their cellars, freezing, dark, no music, no joy, those days are over. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s January after all.

Something about the way Matt Kramer said it in his Drinking Out Loud column on the Wine Spectator, “Is It Worth It To Age Wines Anymore?” resonated. I go into my little walk-in closet and look at all the things I thought would be important to drink in 10-20-30 years and I often find myself walking out and going to another rack of newer wines; fresher, lighter, unencumbered by the dust of time. Oops.

Photo by Dave M. Benett/FFR 2012/Getty Images
It seems some of us are caught between two worlds. The aged, mellow, possibly over-the-hill collections we have pieced together over the years with little if any method other than “these might be good in 5-10-20 years.” Wine happens. In looking over my little tribe of wines that huddle tougether in the closet, there are all kinds of strange bedfellows. What are all those sweet wines doing in there? Will it ever get cold enough to drink all the Port that has been gathered? Are those Super Tuscans really prettier when they age, or were they at their best when they were young and willing and tight and bright?

The other wild card in the whole process is how we change; our attitudes, our desires, our aspirations. Ask anyone who has aged a little about their desires and you might get a surprise or two. Oh sure, it’s recognized that some older men (and women), as they age, tend to look back and long for the younger image they remember in the mirror. And some of them go for it; seeking out a reprieve from the grim reaper as they careen back into the time machine is search of something they don’t want to lose.

I mean, who really wants to deal with disintegrating corks on bottles that even an Ah-So cannot help? There are those who age who do not bring with them the patience to see what happens, ultimately. And for them, the young and the perky are a way of life.

But speaking of a way of life, is all of this really just a subterfuge for a fear of death? With a younger one comes none of the expectation of depth or evolution, there is no thinking about the way it used to be, the first time one cracked it open in 1980. There is no dying, no decrepitude; there simply isn’t time for it. No, it simply is, right up front, jubilant and energetic, no history, no expectations. When an older one chooses to go that route, they cheat death for a moment. But not forever.

"Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn't
work out, you haven't wasted a whole day. ” - Mickey Rooney
Italians, generally, are not afflicted with the compulsion to “collect” as Americans. I daresay there are more fine wine cellars in Fort Worth, Texas than there are in an equivalently sized town in Italy, like Palermo or Genoa (You might also find more older men with younger wives there as well).

Part of the problem is the inevitable: some of us survive longer than others. Some of those in our cellar have departed before we got around to them. That means when we encounter something of that sort, we have to face the inevitability of our own mortality. And so we turn to the younger vintages. Like I said, they’re nimble, unencumbered expressions. They will outlive their older mates. And in many cases they might just be better winemaking.

Say you bought a case of 1997 Barolo, thinking it would be a real keeper for the ages. And then as the wine aged, you realized that this wine was good about ten years ago, that it hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, the wine has declined; early dementia. But you laid out a load of dough for it, thinking you’d get a fat (visceral) payout when the time came.

In the meantime, you sip on a 2007 Nebbiolo and there is so much pleasure and flavor, you think to yourself,” What was I thinking all those years ago when I picked the 1997 to walk down the aisle (of time) with?” You can’t divorce a wine, it just sits there. There is no pre-nup for wines that don’t work out.

Photo from
That New York Times article, Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be, keeps coming up to remind me that we really don’t know how our earlier conceptions of our wants or needs will jive with our future ones. And with wine as well, the cellaring vs. just-going-out-and-buying-something skirmish keeps the fires burning in the drum circle.

As in life, there are these strategies for collecting wines. In the strategy of wine collecting, however, one can have the best of both worlds. It just takes a little effort and juggling.

Plot what you have left in your little (or big) collection. This means taking inventory of what you have. And then find the moments in the next 5-10 years and find a way to get those wines opened and enjoyed (hopefully with friends and family) before they die. The wines. And the loved ones. And while everyday won’t be one of those days ( unless you have more wines in your collection than you have days of your life left) it will offer a plan to work out those you chose will not have been chosen in vain.

And for those nights when you are doing a roasted chicken or some pasta and sauce, have the young, lively ones there to enjoy those moments with. Best of both worlds.
In looking over my closet, I also have another (pressing) option. I need to open a lot of these bottles all in one sitting, invite friends and family, and we just plow through them. Kind of like a wake, but no one has died. And hopefully we will say farewell to some great wines and all have a good time of it.

Who’s in?
© 1967, Avco Embassy Pictures Corp

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


kelly said...

me! me! me! I'm in! I'm in!
There is something to be said about a little age on a wine

Marco Pharmealo said...

Count me in! I'll whip up a tortilla Espanola, grill a few marinated pork kebabs, rapini with white beans...

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