Vins de garde: endangered species?
- Robert Lauriston Aug 27, 2006 06:25 PM
This issue came up in both the "Good to great California rieslings?" and "Parker '100 point system' for wine ratings" topics.
Where in the world are winemakers still making wines specifically intended for aging?
I just had a 2002 Pontet Canet, decanted for 4 hours, with a grilled porterhouse. As tannic as it is now, my sense is that this wine has the muscle and the structure to age nicely in at least 10 to 15 years.
My point is that, some or most reputable Bordeaux producers (and let me add, all good Barolo producers), even in the so-called off vintages, has perhaps unintentionally been crafting their wines that almost always require at least some medium term cellaring to be at their best.
BTW, the Pontet Canet developed nicely in the decanter over the course of our dinner. However, my view is that it will soon enter a closed-down phase very, very soon.
Some Alsatian Riesling, especially Trimbach CFE and CSH (even in off-vintages, these need a *mininum* of 10 years)
Loire whites (Vouvray)
Lopez de Heredia/Vina Tondonia (Rioja)
Caparone out of the Paso Robles area has been making ageworthy red wines for years. They used to be readily available for around 8 or 9 bucks from TJs, but in the last year or so, they have not been for sale there.
Last summer, a friend did a tasting of Cabs and Merlots (all from Bien Nacido vnyd) from 95-99 and all were drinking well. The 92 that we opened was also excellent.
This year, I pulled out one of my last bottles of the 80 Cab and it was quite fine.
I am not as fond of their zins, but the cabs and merlots last a long time and do improve with aging.
Let me preface this by saying I am no fan of the proverbial hedonistic fruit-bomb. What I appreciate most is balance, grace, and a sense of place.
In my experience the term “vin de garde” is used as quick apology for overt tannins that seem out of balance with a wine’s other components, even more so when preceded by the word “vrais” as in “c’est un vrais vin de garde” meaning something like “we will all be dead and gone before this wine tastes good”. Madiran comes to mind
It is a rare wine indeed that can last 40-50 years and still retain some balance – only the greatest terroirs in the best of vintages can go for the long haul
Having said that, I think that those individuals looking for wines to age can still look where they always have – Bordeaux is the classic cellar wine, and most appellations are still a good bet. You might want to steer clear of the super flashy modern wines, but most of the appellations offer wines that have passed the test of time. Hermitage and Chateauneuf have pretty good track records, as do Barolo and Amarone.
For mid-term aging there are lots of options – Burgundy, Riesling in many guises, Chianti, Brunello, California Cabs, etc
For truly long-term aging, it seems to me that high acid, high sugar dessert wines are the most dependable, and longest lived – Vintage Port, Sauternes, Madeira, TBA’s etc.
re: Sam B
Madiran and Cahors used to be closed and undrinkable upon release. They needed maybe five years to shed their tannins. These days they're ready to drink upon release.
There aren't many ageworthy Chianti riservas left, most wineries diverted those grapes into proprietary super-Tuscans.
re: Robert Lauriston
Even Super Tuscans, recent vintages and/or vintages within the last 10 years, have not required any medium-term cellaring to get any better. I've been perusing my stash lately and if you're holding on to some mid-to-late 90's bottles, you'd better make plans on drinking them soon.