Sunday, September 03, 2017

As you age does your taste in wine change?

Echoes from the archives - Posted May 20, 2012


That was the question I posed on a Facebook months ago. I have been thinking about it for some time now, and doing active research.

In my life, I have to say, my tastes have ranged all across the board, like waves of appreciation. For a while I would taste all the Bordeaux reds I could get my hands on. And I developed a taste for them. But my diet, which ranges from low to no red meat, really doesn’t complement them. I also was into Rhone reds as well, and again, aside from the occasional spicy chicken on the grill or holiday repast, I found them hard to take on a regular basis. Not that I didn’t like them, it was more that I just didn’t have a lifestyle where these wines fit on a regular basis.


Red wine, in fact, is getting harder for me to find a place for in my regular diet. What’s with that? As I wrote in an earlier post, the Riesling I had last week (with a baked potato and yogurt of all things) shook my world, and in a good way. If anything I am finding my taste towards wine is going more to white and then rosé and then red. If my fridge doesn’t have a slew of white and rosé wines in it I get worried, like I don’t have enough provisions. Meanwhile I have a whole walk-in closet full of red wines I have been collecting for the last 30 years. The closet really represents my personal tasting history. There are still Bordeaux reds in there, along with Rhone reds, mainly from the northern Rhone. Italians are in there, lots of Tuscan reds, Piedmont reds and reds from Abruzzo, along with the occasional oddity from the Marche, Apulia and Basilicata. And then there are those Texas reds I forgot about and are now ready or rotten, depending on which wine we are talking about. Now those wines seem more like historical notations rather than a record of my preferences.

What I am finding is that I am enjoying lighter wines. We opened a 1970 Chateau Latour recently. 11.5% in alcohol, so in effect a lighter wine. But what a powerful red it was. We simply sipped on it, like communion wine, rather than spoil it with a “match.” It needed nothing to complement it, although it was still vigorous and not anywhere near having peaked.

White wines, anything from light Garganega blends from the Veneto to Verdicchio, whites from Campania or Alto Adige. Crisp, high acid, but fruity freshness. More of a beverage than an experience. Hey, I still have those moments when I get in front of greatness and sip from the chalice; I haven’t become immune to those experiences. But the days of opening a magnum of 1911 Chateau Lafite to go with BBQ are long gone (and yes we did things like that in the 1980’s).

No, what I am really getting at, searching for, is if some of us change what we are looking for in wine when we reach a certain age? I mean, some men (and women) start looking for younger mates and faster cars when they reach their 50’s. 60’s and 70’s. And while that might be more of a reflection of one’s personal and emotional maturity, is there something to it when I hear a man in his 50’s tell me he really likes “Big red wines from Napa” (P.S. you should have seen his wife).

I guess what I am looking for from anyone else who is reading this and cares to comment, is their personal path; taste evolution let's call it, in conjunction with the aging process.

I could envision drinking Riesling for the rest of my life on a regular basis. And white Burgundy. And those lovely crisp white wines from Italy. Even the occasional Chardonnay. But what about all those reds in my closet? When am I going to get around to drinking them up?

So this is kind of a personal journey and even more it is a peculiar mystery, for I really don’t know how I got here from there. Is it me aging? Is it having tasted so many wines that I now know what I like? I mean, the thought of a Quintarelli red doesn’t repulse me, not at all. But I don’t dream about drinking Gaja or Sassicaia. They just don’t seem to appeal to me, even though it was a Gaja wine ('78 Barbera) that really opened me up to the wines of Piedmont. And while that was then and this is now, I am a little perplexed by my path. I like fruit. I love acid. I don’t mind tannin. But I am not fond of high alcohol or oak. Usually, but not always. What the hell kind of palate do I have and who has commandeered it? It’s as if what I like to drink and what I “think” I should like are two different things. And we aren’t even descanting the salubrious world of natural wines; I’m just talking wine in general.

In the meantime, let’s hear from you folks out there, especially the older ones or ones who have been sipping on wine for some time, let’s say 20+ years. I know that might leave some of the young’uns out of this discourse, but feel free to join in if you want to. In any event you all will be in this situation sooner than you think. Like the next time you go to bed and wake up. Thirty years is merely a good night’s sleep. And a slew of wine pleasure.





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2 comments:

  1. I have not had nearly the experience in wine tasting that you have had, but I will proffer some thoughts. Taste is such a subjective experience, but I do agree with you on the high alcohol, overly extracted reds like some Australian Shiraz and California Syrah. I do not enjoy heavily oak-ed wines either. I never drank much red Bordeaux so I can't say much there. I have had my share of northern red Rhone wine and still enjoy them with grilled lamb, although I usually go to Spanish Rioja or Ribera del Duero for a lamb match. I find that we drink more white and rosé in the warm weather. Up here in the great Northeast, a fine Barbera d'Asti or d'Alba tastes mighty good when El Norte starts whipping up. My taste in reds tends toward leaner cleaner ones and I try to avoid the port-like heavy ones dripping with residual sugar. They just wear out my palate. I drink more white Burgundy now too thanks to discovering a treasure trove of aged ones marked down to $30-ish last summer. There is a half bottle of 2005 Montrachet in the fridge right now waiting for the late afternoon. Thanks to you, I am drinking lots of Sicilian whites from Etna, Vittoria and elsewhere. Spanish and Portuguese whites are also on the menu. On the German side, I favor Riesling Kabinett, but I would not turn down a good Spatlese. As for rosé, rosato, rosado: mainly Provencal French, rosato from all over Italia, rosado mainly from Rioja and Catalunya.

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  2. When I was younger I was enjoying sweet wines, but now, when I'm a bit older I prefer more dry ones. But as Marco mention, taste is such a subjective experience.

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