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Aug 27, 2006 06:25 PM

Vins de garde: endangered species?

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?

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  1. Parker's last Advocate review of the 2005 Bordeaux from the cask shows a number of wines he suggests will store for 10 to 25 years, with a few at 40+ years. For one, Chapelle d'Ausone,he anticipates maturity in 2020 to 2100!!!!!!!!!!!! 95+ years.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Midlife

      You must mean Ch. Ausone.
      The second wine is quite good, but 95 years might be pushing it, even by Parker.

    2. 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.

      1. Some Alsatian Riesling, especially Trimbach CFE and CSH (even in off-vintages, these need a *mininum* of 10 years)
        German Riesling
        Loire whites (Vouvray)

        Lopez de Heredia/Vina Tondonia (Rioja)

        1. 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.


          1. 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.

            5 Replies
            1. 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.

              1. 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.

                1. re: RCC

                  I didn't say super-Tuscans required cellaring. Like their California models they're made to be drunk on release. By somebody who likes overoaked grossly alcoholic fruit bombs.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Well, you posted that "ageworthy Chianti riservas" are being diverted to production of super-Tuscans, didn't you?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      The best of the sangiovese grapes that used to go into old-school Chinati riservas that needed a few years of cellaring to reach their peak are instead going into Parkerized super-Tuscans that are ready to drink on release.