Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Wine >
Jul 13, 2009 05:58 PM

Oak and Aging Wine

Recently a prominent wine seller/ reviewer had the following reaction after tasting the 1994 Harrison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:

"This is exactly what I worry about is possible for a lot of wines that a lot of people are cellering right now that are high scored wines in the mid to late 90s from California. Because what happens after time as the fruit starts to go away a little bit you get left with a massive . . . {reviewer retrieves and displays a wooden crate} "

"And this is a major fear of mine this is why I push so much for a calming down of 100% new French oak; that everybody thinks is so cool. I think it's a very scary proposition because, probably why I'm getting most emotional about this right now is . . . I've had this wine before, twice: when it first came out; which I was a young chap and I liked it . . . and then probably about 3 or 4 years ago at a tasting, a 94-95 cab tasting and it showed fairly well; but I remember something to the degree of this is kind getting oaky. [Today] this [wine] is appalling. I mean this is straight wood to the mouth and I don't like it in any shape or form."

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Any other regions, vintages or winemakers that we might want to be cautious about cellering for this reason? Other thoughts?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This is nothing new. Some people have been de-crying "overoaked" wines for precisely this reason for more than 20 years . . .

    Fruit fades over time. Many oaky wines with good fruit (but lots of oak) in their youth turn into an oaky wine with little or no fruit as they age.

    In my own experience, aging is all about balance. Like a tightrope walker on the high wire, as long as he/she has his/her balance, the performer will amaze the audience and more from one end of the wire to the other with no problems. In other words, if the wine is balanced (fruit v. oak; acidity v. tannin), as long as it is complete, it has the potential to age beautifully. But if the wine is over-oaked, overly tannic, lacking in acidity, and so on, odds favor early consumption lest you watch as the wine falls into the net (or off a cliff).

    Just my 2¢; YMMV.


    25 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Zin, would you be willing to give me the skinny or harsh truth about 3 Red Wines(if possible)? I am asking you because you helped me in the past, and your wine knowledge is very impressive. I have three wines that are more sentimental than worth much(I know because of the pricetag when bought...LOL). They are sentimental because one is vintage 08 year my boy was born, one is 2010 vintage the year my daughter was born, and one is vintage 2007 the year I married my beautiful wife. As an example, some day on anniversary I wouldn't mind drinking the bottle with my wife and/or I had planned on giving my children the bottles someday, so I was wondering if they could realistically drink them.I guess at the time I might not have done enough research, but I grabbed cigars and grabbed wines on the way to hospital I thought might age better than others....:sorry if I provide extra info and I am also curious what are usual percentages of bordeaux or is there a requirement for it to be bordeaux besides the region(like tequila must be 51% blue agave as an example)
      1)14%,750ml reserve hand harvested malbec vintage 2010(twistoff cap) mendoza product of argentina
      2)Chinati Classico vintage 2007 says Raccolto above the 2007 and above that it says denominazione de origine controllata e garantina....13.5%,750ml(cork)top of bottle on label says: Lamole Di Lamole - this wine is imported from italy
      3)this bordeaux is imported from france and it says it is 80%merlot & 20% "CAB" or cabernet savigone(spelling?, sorry).....12.5%,750ml(cork)Chateau Du Pavillon Bordeauz vintage 2008 - on the bottle it says:appellation bordeaux controllee.....on another part of the bottle it says: mis en bouteille chateau bordeaux One of those phrases has bordeaux and the other one doesn't(sorry)....thank u Zin even if you don't respond

      1. re: creamsherry

        1) Who is the producer?

        2) 2007 was a fine vintage for Chianti, but it's generally an early maturing vintage -- meaning I'd probably open it for your 5th anniversary (if you haven't celebrated already).

        3) There is a Château du Pavillon that is from Canon-Fronsac, but you said this is an "appellation Bordeaux contrôlée," There is a Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux that *is* a a/c Bordeaux, but the name is different . . . if it's a third wine, I'm not at all familiar with it, but -- again -- 2008 is also somewhat of an early-maturing vintage (for Bordeaux), so . . . .

      2. re: zin1953

        lastly, even if they might not age past a certain point, if the wine isn't bad and it doesn't go bad, and it isn't stored imporoperly(not perfect temps but good enough), can these realistically be drank whenever the heck the bottles happen to be cracked open whether sooner than laster or much later than sooner?

        1. re: creamsherry

          -- Wine will eventually fade and fall apart with age.

          -- A bottle of wine which is improperly stored will fade and fall apart *sooner* than another bottle of the same wine which has been ***properly*** stored.

          At least two out of your three wines are in the "drink sooner rather than later" category, and perhaps all three.

          While it's too early to tell about 2010, if you want wines to drink when they are -- say - 20 or 21 years old, look into buying a bottle of 2007 and 2008 Vintage Porto.

          1. re: zin1953

            ok thanx. I will look for producer not sure where that wold if it is due to drink 5 yr anniversary which is july but we waited to 10 or 15 yrs as an example, what is worst that can happen? zin, i am not trying to be repetitive or pushy....I just am really curious how the wines would be that are old. I remember as teenagers 20 yrs ago we used to drink bottle from our parents' homes(we took turns). some were rather old but they always seemed I making sense. I am not trying to go against the norm of aging but if you 'found' a bottle from 92 that shouldve been drank in 97, would you dump it or drink it? if I have to buy new bottles I will, but I do want at least the kids will be able to drink them even if they aren't the best.....if not drinkable then they need to go

            1. re: creamsherry

              I don't know what you want me to say.

              All wines age in the bottle. Not all wines IMPROVE with that age, and NO wine improved INDEFINITELY. In other words, all wines age, but a wine like -- for example -- a White Zinfandel or Beaujolais Nouveau is typically at its best within six months of bottling. To open up a five-year old White Zin and drink it is to taste something you will never want to taste again! Will it kill you? No. No known human pathogen can live in wine. But will you have more than one teeny, tiny sip? Well, if you can actually put something that smells than bad into your mouth, one teeny, tiny sip is more than enough to last a lifetime.

              On the other hand, some wines will not only improve with age but may in fact be undrinkable in its youth and actually NEED the age before even becoming drinkable.



              >>> now if it is due to drink 5 yr anniversary which is july but we waited to 10 or 15 yrs as an example, what is worst that can happen? <<<

              It will taste like $#!+ and be totally undrinkable, but it won't kill you.

              >>> if you 'found' a bottle from 92 that shouldve been drank in 97, would you dump it or drink it? <<<

              Depends. If it was a wine that was well-known for being at its peak in its youth, I might dump it. But if it was a wine that generally ages well, but -- for example -- probably "shouldn't" because it was a weak vintage, I would certainly open it . . . BUT I'd have a "backup bottle" of something else at hand, something I *knew* would taste fine with the meal at hand.

              >>> if I have to buy new bottles I will, but I do want at least the kids will be able to drink them even if they aren't the best.....if not drinkable then they need to go <<<

              Sadly, you purchased wines for your children that (IMHO) do not stand a snowball's chance in that proverbial hot spot of being drinkable by the time they reach 21. Personally I don't think they will be drinkable at 10 years of age. Given *excellent* storage conditions, there would be a SLIGHT change; given less than excellent conditions, no way! In other words, it's not your storage conditions that are preventing the wines from maturing to the age of 21; the wines were incapable of doing that from Day One!


              1. re: zin1953

                OK thank you. amazingly though...I thought that wine becoming vinegar or smelling like sewage(where obviously a drop won't even get in your mouth as you referred to above) meant air got to it or the cork was tainted? I didn't think this rotten smell and spoilage could happen to an unopened bottle unless you literally Abused the temp levels?? I guess what I had been getting at to answer your first question in the last post by you Zin, I thought the wine would be bland, maybe have a taste that is undesirable but in actuality if a homeless bum drank it or a 16yr old kid that him and his friends don't have many options, that the wine would not be that bad?? I have never had a Bad wine or truely spoiled wine(but probably have drank bad wine). Dang I used to drink wines that had been opened and corked for a long while(sorry, going back to teen years again with friends). I have heard...and believe...that one knows when they have a bad wine(the rotten sewage smell that would lead you not to put it in your mouth), but I thought this meant air got in or the bottle was tainted or corked? I thought if I drank the bottle in 20yrs it would be 'not the way it was supposed to happen' but life would go on?? PS - the bottles are in a place where they will be hardly touched and they are in the paper bag. Every once in a long while someone might hold and look at it. They are in a closet sunlight but there is a closet light. The temp all season would be 70something....probably different temp summer and winter. whatever it is in the house during the summer, it will be less in the closest same benefit during winter season I guess. PPS- or maybe it is

                1. re: creamsherry

                  I would not rely on adolescent tastebuds as being a gauge of an okay wine.

                  Teenagers drink Boone's Farm, Mogen David, and Mad Dog -- I will confess to having consumed a lot of Sutter Home white zin and gallons of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. I would gag on either of them today, just as my adolescent self would have gagged on the wines I drink tody.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    I would agree with that statement Sunshine, but Zin said something to the effect that it would be extremely hard to taste them let alone smell them. Some of those wines were very old, not good wines, and they weren't stored properly(stood up on trays near windows and so-on) & they were extremely edible.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Not all teenagers drink Boone's Farm, Mogen David, MD 20/20, and the like. Certainly I never did (our family generally served Manischewitz Friday nights). I only tasted Sutter Home White Zin in competitions, and never touched Bartles & Jaymes, except to restock the store's shelves . . . the same held true for a number of my friends growing up, and holds true today for my teenagers -- though their grandparents usually serve Mogen David.

                      My point is simply that -- while what you say may apply to many teens, it does not apply to all. "One size fits all" rarely does.

                      OTOH, your last sentence has the golden ring of absolute truth! ;^)

                      1. re: zin1953

                        the point was more that teenagers will drink things that adults would never consider to be "good" -- whether it's due to budgetary constraints, or they just don't know any better -- those brands were the most commonly mentioned when I was in high school and college.

                        I never drank any of those three either -- my folks starting teaching me about wine from the time I was about 15 -- but most of my classmates drank one or more regularly. One group of boys would skip class to go drinking and fishing -- calling it Fishin' and Farmin', because it was always Boones Farm that they'd smuggle down to the river.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          yeah the wines we drank that were from a parent were much more sophisticated than those but I think I can attest to that many were old(I remember one guy had a case of miller light in his cabinet from the 70s....I know some of the girls drank boones and or purple haze which I guess isnt even really a wine LOL comes in like a 2liter bottle looking like grape soda. now when I bought the stuff on an occaision in college, I have to come clean and admit I drank wild irish rose and mad dog 20/20 on occaision.

                          ....and we drank the open bottles first back then (before college) because we were scared of getting caught(I am willing to bet we drank some really good stuff)...sunshine was right on with budgetry restraints but also we took what we could get...sometimes the cork would break up and be in the wine. ok enough 'looking back' for me, it wasn't numerous times but it did happen often for about a year. I know beer is different but I remember one girl had two cases of busch & one case of milwaukees best under a porch in massachusetts where we grew up....they had been under the porch for (not exaggerating) 3 summers and three winters. I had no problem drinking them and I even used to defend the old canned foods I still had to my wife(that ended after the first baby) LOL. I am just trying to learn so appreciated the advice...I guess if they're sentimental I could hold onto them but maybe I could go with some vintage portos and maybe you could tell me which bordeaux to invest in(I would like maybe a champagne 07 for the wife and me and also every child gets his/her own type of wine but I need some that can age). everyone always says 99% of wines are made to drink in a year but I usually buy imports. I want to get the 07 08 and 2010. I already have my 1975 porto(pocas junior) for my birth year

                          1. re: creamsherry

                            basically a lack of response means I was right, the wines will not officially "go bad" unless they are tainted and corked in some fashion with bacteria(whereas that would be when they Technically could be drinkable but never would be)...anything else is fair game

                            1. re: creamsherry


                              The reason I didn't answer your post of yesterday was that I didn't see a question there.

                              No wine will "go bad," IF by "going bad" you mean become poisonous and dangerous to human health. As I said above, no known human pathogen can live in wine. Therefore, you can have a taste of ANY wine -- regardless of its condition -- without ending up in the hospital's ER getting your stomach pumped! (Presuming we are not talking about Austrian wines form the 1970s.)

                              A wine that is OTH ("over the hill") can be just as foul as a wine contaminated with mercaptans, or with Brett, or with 2,4,6-TCA. I wouldn't want to drink ANY of them, and I am sure neither would you! It would not kill you if you do, but it sure as hell might turn you (or your children) off of wine for the rest of your (their) life.

                              You seem determined to serve your kids really crappy wine when they turn 21. I don't know why. Maybe it's a case of "Hey -- I drank crappy wine when I was your age. Now it's your turn . . . " On the other hand, I would hope that the wines I purchased for MY children will not only be enjoyable (rather than crap) when they turn 21, but I'm actually hoping they'll let me taste it, too.

                              1. re: zin1953

                                well, I can guarantee you one thing: if someone has a very fancy, expensive wine that is over the hill, they are still going to drink it unless it is corked or Truely Bad. I have never seen proof to the contrary Zin that is why I am struggling on the learning of this issue. People drink wines over the hill all the time, and they probably woudln't admit they don't like it or even know if it is over the hill. There is a certain quality in drinking that century old liquid. As for your children, I wouldn't be surprised if they drank some cheap beer or wine as they is the nature of the beast. I watched Titanic in the movie theatre with some 20/20, and it was a great time....found a nice woman at the bar after too.

                                the bottles are more for sentimental value...there are notes on them(like one has my daughter's full name and birthdate as an example and that we love her). However, I did hope they would be wines that aged, so I should've shown some patience on the purchases. They won't get them at 21(unless they married young), but when they do get them is yet to be determined....25, 30, when we pass, etc. They're sort of like the boxes of cigars that went stale after a year or two tops...they're more sentimental. I thought the cigarbox wine 14% twistoff was a good one for Lydia, as she will never smoke those cigars but it was a good match with the label and all and the hand harvesting. She'll cash in the savings bonds anyways....

                                My thing is this....there are so many bottles of wine out there that there is no way in all heck you can prove their storage was genuine the whole time. Of course they'll look the part or play the part, but c'mon let us be reasonable. Yes some can be proven. We had that 1975 porto one time...there was no sentiment. It looked like grapes or grape fossils formed on the bottom of the bottle. You could scrape the sentiment up if you wanted. The porto wasn't bad. That experience led me to shake my bottle up the next time...I wanted to experience the entire bottle. Yes, the stuff can have a strong unpleasant taste if you are not careful. you got guyz and girlz drinking bottles after maturity that really have been over the hill for a long time due to the conditions they were stored in....much easier to clean the drains when its cheap just like it is easier to beat up a car as a teenager if you didn't buy it yourself.

                                1. re: creamsherry

                                  No, if a bottle of wine is not enjoyable (note, I didn't say turpentine or hazardous, just not enjoyable) -- there are a lot of us who would be grumped -- but we wouldn't drink it. Yes, it's a waste of money, and yes, it's a waste of potential -- but life is far too short to drink bad wine.

                                  It's wonderful that you want to save something for your kids, and I totally get the emotional ties of the bottle with inscriptions -- but the reality is that the wine inside is going to be a good candidate for the drainpipe. Doesn't reduce the value of the sentiment -- but nasty is nasty.

                                  I can't even address the issue of shaking up and disturbing the must before drinking.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    yeah the shaking was a onetime deal(I know it probably angers the wine Gods). I was upset the first bottle seemed to have some of the contents 'stuck' at the bottom...maybe it was supposed to be that way. I have always heard porto has lots of sediment.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Sunshine, do you own a winestore that is closing at the end of this month: "Sunshine Wines"? ....blackstone virginia....

                                      1. re: creamsherry

                                        I've never even been to Blackstone, Virginia, so that would be a no.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          ok long shot but figured I'd ask. I don't live there, but I have een there before & I just got their 'closing' personal email the other day.

                                    2. re: creamsherry

                                      >>> well, I can guarantee you one thing . . . <<<

                                      Oh? Really? Are YOU going to guarantee it? Tell me: where can I send my application for a refund?

                                      >>> . . . if someone has a very fancy, expensive wine that is over the hill, they are still going to drink it unless it is corked or Truly Bad (sic). <<<

                                      I have NEVER -- seriously, NEVER! -- seen someone drink an expensive wine that was over-the-hill, simply because *** it was expensive, and damned if I'm going to waste my money! *** (which is what you seem to be saying, if I understand you correctly). Why would you drink something that was not only UNENJOYABLE to drink, but it tastes like $#!+ and certainly doesn't compliment your meal but rather ruins it???

                                      Leave fermenting grape juice alone, and it wants to go to vinegar. And on its own, it won't even be good vinegar! So EVEN IF the only thing that happened to your bottle of wine -- regardless of how much it cost -- was that it turned to really bad vinegar (which won't kill you, but would ruin a salad), why would you drink it? But a well-made wine won't go directly to vinegar; it will go, eventually, to someplace worse. So, again, WHY WOULD YOU DRINK IT???

                                      >>> People drink wines over the hill all the time, and they probably woudln't admit they don't like it or even know if it is over the hill. <<<

                                      Uh . . . no. In the context of this entire conversation, "over-the-hill" doesn't refer to a wine that, as it improves and matures over time, actually hit its peak six months ago; "over-the-hill" means dead -- not dying, DEAD. Crap. Tasting like $#!+. Anyone (virtually anyone; apparently you might be an exception) who tastes it is more likely to spit it out rather than swallow it.

                                      >>> There is a certain quality in drinking that century old liquid. <<<

                                      I don't know. I've had several wines from the 19th century. Some I took a sip of and spit out; some I actually swallowed; some we even drank! An 1869 Château Montrose (consumed in 1975), for example, was lovely for the first 10 minutes after the bottle was opened. After 10 minutes or so, it completely fell apart, and everyone left the rest of the wine in their glasses -- untouched -- and it was all poured down the sink. The 1854 Bual from Cossart, Gordon was outstanding -- but then again, it was Madeira, not Bordeaux, so it would have been rather surprising if it had gone bad.

                                      >>> As for your children, I wouldn't be surprised if they drank some cheap beer or wine as they is the nature of the beast. <<<

                                      Let's leave my kids out of this; you don't know them. They already have pretty good palates, and can do a reasonable job of describing the wines they taste. I am not so stupid as to think they will never drink Budweiser, or never have a glass of Two Buck Chuck -- but I'd be surprised if they ever actually *bought* a bottle of 2BC.

                                      >>> I watched Titanic in the movie theatre with some 20/20, and it was a great time....found a nice woman at the bar after too. <<<

                                      No accounting for taste. I could barely stand the taste of Concord grape wine. Indeed, it's how I learned how to do shots.

                                      >>> the bottles are more for sentimental value . . . However, I did hope they would be wines that aged, so I should've shown some patience on the purchases. They won't get them at 21 . . . <<<

                                      Well, the age-old tradition is to buy wine from a child's birth year to open when they reach 21 years of age. If you have in mind something different, then that changes the discussion. The wines you bought have little chance of being good at 21 years of age, so if all you want is a bottle with your child's name on it to show her that you love her . . . .

                                      >>> My thing is this....there are so many bottles of wine out there that there is no way in all heck you can prove their storage was genuine the whole time. <<<

                                      There actually ARE ways to tell. There are ways to source out wines that have been properly cared for. The key, I suppose, is your use of the word "proof." It would be impossible to prove, for example, that no power failure occurred in France that may have affected the temperature of the consolidation warehouse prior to the cases of wine being loaded on the temperature-controlled container for shipment to the U.S. But there ARE importers, wholesalers, and retailers who go the extra mile to insure -- as best as possible -- proper storage conditions are maintained while the wine is in their possession. Buying on eBay? No. Buying from a source like Kermit Lynch or North Berkeley? Well, I'm quite comfortable with it.

                                      >>> We had that 1975 porto one time . . . <<<

                                      Might I suggest that -- overall -- you try to curb your impulse buying and do a bit more research prior to grabbing bottles. 1975 was the worst "declared" vintage for Porto in the history of Port wine. It never would have been declared under normal circumstances, but there was a revolution in Portugal in 1974, and rumors were that the new government was going to nationalize the Port wine industry and thus, the owners decided to squeeze out one more vintage (and thus higher profits) before that happened. 1975 Vintage Porto was, at its very best, merely "good" in the grand scheme of things.

                                      Being young, I bought several bottles (well, four) of 1975 Graham's Vintage Porto for myself. The bottle I opened in 1980 was pretty good, IIRC. Every bottle I opened after 1985, however, was dead.

                                      You are not the first person to shake a bottle of wine that has thrown sediment -- indeed, waiters who don't know any better do it (accidentally) all the time. You are, however, the first person I know to ever do it deliberately in an attempt to "experience the entire bottle." Hmmmm . . . .

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        "Over the hill," can have many connotations, and to different people.

                                        It can mean "less than fresh and youthful," to "having lost all of its characteristics." What might be "over the hill" to one, might equate to "fine, aged ___," to another. Totally subjective to the taster.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          I don't know, Bill. I've never had a debate over a wine that was over-the-hill before . . .

                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            zin and bill I am not trying to be snarky but I think we need to get this going again....that was my point to Bill - over the hill means exactly that(like the proverbial 40th bday card) - over the hill but there is still time before the bottom. another case in point: the 1975 poprtos I have been speaking of in this thread(the year I was born)...if it was 'dead' it wasn't the sewage smelling 'corked' or 'tainted' bottle that any human being would know not to touch his lips to. It was an enjoyable bottle, and I admit I would be hard-pressed to dump it down the drain(but that's just me). My friends and I have called that alcohol abuse since the age of 15. That being said, I am much closer to learning and understanding this stuff after yours and Zin's posts. I do remember a hard cider from madison's home in VA (Montpellier)...a copy of the same way Washington used to make them...I think it went bad but again I drank it and I wasn't able to know if it was bad or if my lack of knowledge just didn't know to tell me if I didn't quite like the taste. It still bubbled - I had always thought that with sodas as an example - if you shook the bottle and it fizzed, the bottle was still airtight and the drink was good. Now I realize we are talking wines here, but my father was coca-cola foods retired, so we drank a lot of sodas(old and new) growing up. And back then my age limited me to drinking "aged" cokes. Lol. for the poprto, I had read some interesting history on the porto business before you mentioned the 1975s, Zin. I guess there was some kinf of threat of takeover, and perhaps even though the threat was over or near over, they fely the best way to 'show um up' was to have a vintage 1975? I hadn't heard it was a bad year though. I did hear 72, 73, and 74 didn't happen.

                2. re: zin1953

                  I was under belief also that oak does prolong a wine's age, but I was unsure if that was true. Actually when I heard tat a few weeks ago I could've sworn they were talking about malbec

                3. Jason is right on about tannins and acid. WIthout these factors, the fruit will just recede and aging will leave the wine less flavorful. But under better circumstances, fruit will mature as the wine ages and develop many pleasant tones.

                  The common wisdom is that Zins and Syrahs don't age well, and I think that is true for many of the more popular, simple styles of these wines. But, especially with Zins, if they have enough tannins and aren't simple fruit bombs, they can age very nicely.

                  Generally speaking, simple varietals will not age as well as blended wines. Bordeax wines age well in part because the blend of varietals are chosen to give a better balance. Meritages, GSM blends, and many other blends sold with unassuming names are often good candidates for aging because of the mix of characteristics. They may be made to drink young, but the blending allows different characteristics to emerge over time. But the hard fact is that the wineries engineer their wine to be consumed young -- even the premium Cabs. Some varieties that were historically made to be blended and aged -- tempranillos and sangiovese come to mind -- are now reinvented as simple varietals to be consumed young. Try finding a classic Sangiovese anymore! So you have to dig around to find wines that have the balance and the blend of characteristics that lend themselves to aging. Even then, opening an old bottle is always a roll of the dice.

                  28 Replies
                  1. re: BernalKC

                    Well, I realize the discussion has only been about New World wines so far, which maybe should have been mentioned, but I also think some of the things that have been said don't exist, with the same grape varieties, in Europe.

                    In California, for a number of reasons, there are plenty of young vineyards, which don't always produce the most complex wines. So what do you do for flavor and to make it more interesting? When your vines are pencil thin and maybe the land itself isn't great anyway, you need something to introduce some interest, like French oak, or call the wine dry but have plenty of residual sugar, or use an extra long hang time to make them "overripe", a word which somehow became a positive among wine critics. Or all of the above.

                    Syrah ages just fine in the northern Rhone. Or at Grange Hermitage from Australia. '61 Jaboulet La Chapelle is killer right now. And yes, it's 100% syrah, so you don't need a blend to make it live a long time. At least not if it's syrah, or mourvedre, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, nebbiolo, or sangiovese, among others. Some grapes do better as a blend because they're just not that great tasting on their own, but you don't need a blend to have a long lived wine.

                    As far as zin goes, have you ever tasted any of the old Ridge zins from the '60s and '70s? Still going strong and they are great wines. And there are plenty of California cabernets from the '70s that are still going strong. Back in those days, California winemakers were making vin de garde, but it's not common these days.

                    I can understand making wine that's ready to drink, especially when you've paid a huge amount of money for vineyard land - you need that cash flow. But a lot of the excesses from the original example are just the American "more is better" marketing getting applied to wine. If a little oak is good, more oak must surely be better. Not for me, thanks.

                    The main thing you need for a long lived wine is the balance that's already been mentioned, you don't need a lot of tannin. But isn't it funny how the longest lived wines always come from the same vineyards and the same people?

                      1. re: crw77

                        I agree that blending is not intrinsically necessary. My point was more that blended wines are more likely to overcome the shortcomings of wines that are put on the market for immediate consumption.

                        The other point I'd make is that the notion of old world / new world wineries misses the point to some extent. The impact of globalization extends to every corner of the global wine market and drives this perversion of the old styles and the old craftsmenship of winemaking. I was trying to make that point w.r.t. Sangiovese. It is increasingly difficult to find a traditional, made for the long haul DOCG Sangio from Italy anymore. You can find them if you pay attention, but most of the product on the market is not made in the traditional style anymore. The impact is also evident in Bordeaux where I'm starting to see Cabernet varietals labelled and marketed as such with scant mention of their Bordeaux appelation.

                        And yes, I've definitely had some great older Zins. A '71 Martini comes to mind. Or a '84 Phelps. But Phelps no longer makes that label. And when was the last time you drank a Martini? Some of the Dry Creek wineries (and some in Amador or Lodi) still make full bodied, not-so-hot labels with enough balance to put down. But really, most Zins are high alchohol fruit bombs that will have a fairly short cellar life -- definitely worth hanging onto for a few years, but not going to last much beyond that.

                        I guess this is veering off the OPs original point about over oaked reds. That has not been the main issue in my experience. [Over oaked white are another story.] The bigger problem is, to me, globalization and the changing styles and techniques that make most wines unsuited for aging.

                        1. re: BernalKC

                          "It is increasingly difficult to find a traditional, made for the long haul DOCG Sangio from Italy anymore. You can find them if you pay attention, but most of the product on the market is not made in the traditional style anymore."

                          Why were they ever made in the "traditional" way. I mean people have always been interested in making money right? What was the driving force to consciously make wine that reached it's optimal levels years in the future; maybe outliving the buyer?


                          1. re: Chinon00

                            Oh yes, Sangiovese was very much made in a traditional way, even after the blending regulations changed. The fruit was red. The wine was quaffable.

                            Then, in the last six years, both the fruit-growing and oak-aging changed.
                            The fruit was picked later, so much so that Sangiovese fruit was no longer red in flavor but "black." The wine was subjected to too much oak, all with the goal of making an international style of wine that Tuscan wineries thought would make more money. It's difficult to understand why Tuscan winemakers would abandon their premier grape's unique varietal characterisitcs -- juicy red flavor and remarkable drinkability-- in favor of an international fruit bomb style. Tragic. Varietal erosion at its worst.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              The "Varietal erosion at its worst" principle is not only restricted to sangiovese.
                              Similar evolution, if in reverse order ( from concentration to dilution ), with all the "new generation" barolos.
                              No more 10 ~ 20 years wait time, now just pop the cork & drink a.s.a.p.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Worry not. Primitivo is alive and "well" in Tuscany, as are the enormous traditional Slovenian-oak puncheons whose surface-to-volume ratios assure traditional quaffability. I was there last harvest, and I did not think the Brix at picking was especially excessive anywhere I was allowed to bite in.

                                Still the "success" of the Supertuscans, and their blind adherence to newly cooped 225L barriques, has spread, and as others have noted, not necessarily for the universal betterment of Sangiovese.

                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  The varietal erosion of Sangiovese is well-documented throughout Tuscany. I recently attended an academic symposium on Sangiovese in Tuscany. Making Sangiovese in the "international style" -- high Brix, heavy barrique, heavy extraction -- was the talk all throughout the entire five day seminar. Now Sangiovese tastes like every other overripe, oak-aged wine. Varietal subtleties and inherent flavor profiles are lost in this style of winemaking.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Yes, everything you say is correct, but primitivo lives on at many levels, e.g., from Contucci to Avignonese.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      And the world is poorer for it . . .

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        I'm not exactly sure what maria lorraine meant by "varietal erosion." If it's simply a stylistic change without concomitant changes in the clones, I say just let the fad (of internationalism in vinification) pass. I mean, the knowledge base of traditional methods and styles is not going to just disappear. Nor, hopefully, will the vines.

                                        My experience in Tuscany is that many, many growers and winemakers are MILITANT about how special/unique/superior their neighborhood varieties of Sangio are, and how the next town over can't grow s@#t. If you want to get into a fight, march into Montalcino and brag about Montepulciano's grapes.

                                        And I hate to pee on a good warm campfire here, but we have to be honest: traditional Tuscan vinification needed a little international help. Horsehair and mastic to seal airlocks? Brass and iron equipment in contact with the must? Replaning your pucheons every 20 years? My point here is that it's pretty easy and tempting to over-Romanticize primitivo and blame outside innovation. After all, as Peynaud famously said, traditions in winemaking are but innovations that worked.

                                        My sense is that the Tuscans will find their own ways as they always do. Hopefully the market in Italy and worldwide will allow them time to do that. In the meantime, growers here in Washington are planting Sangio clones in increasing acres, and some of us like to make lighter, less oaky, higher acid Sangios. So despair not.

                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          It's not just Sangiovese that has suffered under the "assault" of internationalism; it just happens (IMHO) to be the most obvious example. The problem, as I see it, is that there is a fine line between "traditional Tuscan vinification need(ing) a little international help" and the Tuscans abandoning tradition for internationalism. Yes, all through the 1960s and 1970s, the on-going refrain was "This is really good . . . for an Italian, I mean." Yes, the Tuscans (and much of Italy) had to "get their act together" and stop making wine in the 19th century. They did that. (Thank God!) But, as I said, there is a fine line -- wines are are so super-ripe, over-oaked so that you cannot tell if it comes from Radda or Greve, Red Mountain or Walla Walla ***IS*** a problem. At least I find it so.

                                          What can I do about it? Very little, other than not purchase the wines, express my dismay, and verbally express my hope for change.

                                          That said, you are wrong, I believe, when you say "the knowledge base of traditional methods and styles is not going to just disappear." It does all the time. Even in such "modern" locations as the Napa Valley. Not only do winemakers grow old and pass away, while the younger generation is not interested in following in the family footsteps; but the institutional memory of method and style often disappears with the "star system" of winemaking. That is to say:

                                          1) Joe Blow has made wine for Chateau Cache Phloe for 10 years and is now garnering great reviews. He is then hired by Domaine Grands Deaux in hopes of doing the same thing over there. (Or perhaps, he leaves to start his own winery.)

                                          2) Now the owners of Chateau Cache Phloe feel the pressure to keep getting those great reviews, but rather than promote the no-name assistant winemaker to fill the vacancy, they EITHER a) go out and hire Jane Grey, the winemaker from Beaucoups Bux Vineyards -- a winery also garnering great reviews -- to replace Joe, and the no-name assistant quits in disgust; OR b) go out and hire a well-known consulting winemaker to advise them on how to keep getting the good press now that Joe Blow has left . . . even if the no-name assistant stays in place, he/she has to follow the orders of the consultant. Either scenario results in a loss of "institutional memory," of experience working with *this* vineyard in *that* condition. It's one thing when a winemaker like André Tchelistcheff or Bruce Guimaraens or André Portet can say something akin to ***hmmmm, this 19xx vintage reminds me of the 1945 . . . *** and treat the grapes and new wine accordingly. But that sort of experience is lost in California (and elsewhere in the New World) far more than it is retained . . . for every Paul Draper or Max Schubert, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of staff turnovers at the top . . .

                                          Just my 2¢, and worth far less, I'm sure.


                                          P.S. As an aside, you seem to be "hung" on Primitivo . . . why is that? The only one who has mentioned it -- at least recently -- is you. What am I missing?

                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            what a great post.....please keep 'em coming Zin, as we all learn from you. Lots of wisdom in this post, IMHO.

                                            1. re: zin1953

                                              I think your insight on what I call the Carpetbagging Winemaker is spot on (or maybe analogy to politicians, news anchors or pro athletes would be similarly apt). Yes, an institutional memory can be lost, much as a family can stop speaking its native tongue. I was referring more to a cultural memory, and that is far less likely to pass into oblivion under the internationalization.

                                              Renaissances happen. Beer is a near example. Why not wine?

                                              By primitivo, I was mostly meaning the old methods, not the grape. Sorry for the confusion.

                            2. re: BernalKC

                              Thank You very much for your post. How do you 'shop around' to find these classic wines or buy wines that age? I am very interested in doing so. I could ask the guy at the 'real' wine store, but even then I am sort of trusting hearsay. Maybe better would be to shop online with a reputable wine dealer? Or maybe the 3rd choice is the best, should I buy a wine that is already older? I would like to go somewhere like "Total Wine" and be able to spot these burgundies, bordeauxs, etc on my own. Any advice? Also, I appreciated the comments on the tannins and acidic stuff...I have heard and come to learn years ago you are most definitely correct. How can I know these wines from the less acidic and ones with tannins? If it helps, I love red wines the best....part of the reason is all I mentioned above....

                              1. re: creamsherry

                                I would strongly suggest that you begin and end your conversations with a real wine store -- the folks there will be trained to help you pick a wine that YOU like. Online is just that - -it's online and impersonal and impossible to interact with.

                                Buying an older wine won't help you if you don't know what you're looking for -- older does not necessarily mean better.

                                Total Wine is better than nothing -- but a smaller, independent wine retailer is your best bet.

                                I would also strongly, heartily, and emphatically suggest that you get on that wine store's mailing list and sign up for some tasting classes -- yesterday would be too soon.

                                It's great that you have the *desire* to learn -- it's key to learning to enjoy wine -- but a few classes would help you enormously.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Right on.

                                  The trick is to sample as many wines as you can in short order where you can compare them, preferably in the company of knowledgeable people. So find a local merchant that offers classes, or one that does tastings where you get to sample a selection of similar wines. You will develop a sense of the variations and styles of wines. I recently went to a tasting of 12 different Tempranillos ranging from $12-$168, older to newer, low elevation to high, traditional and brand new. I thought I knew a bit about Tempranillo, but I guess I was wrong. What a blast. The tasting included a nice sample of Spanish cheeses that fit hand in glove with the tasting.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      "What you are looking for," are operative terms, regarding wines.

                                      Just donated some older Chards (several regions), to a charity event. One potential bidder approached me, for recs. I described each wine, and left it at that. He did not bid, but the lucky bidder called, and stated that he greatly enjoyed each wine. They were older, well-stored, but were NOT "fresh, and young," as I would describe them.

                                      Recently had a 2000 Le Montrachet, and then a 2006 Le Montrachet, and they were very different wines. Now, they were from different producers, but that was probably less of a concern, than the time, and the vintages.

                                      Older wines ARE different, whether white, or red, and there are so many variables, that one could never give instructions, on how another would enjoy them.


                                    2. re: creamsherry

                                      >>> How do you 'shop around' to find these classic wines or buy wines that age? <<<

                                      While stores like Beverages, and more!, Total Wine & more, or even places like Trader Joe's or Costco can be a reasonable place to purchase NEW vintages of wine (i.e.: current releases), ***none*** of these places are sources that I would trust for purchasing older vintages of wine. New wines that can age? Sure! Wines which already have some age on them? No.

                                      Virtually every (major) urban area has at least one "serious" wine merchant (as opposed to a "liquor store"). The more "serious" the wine you wish the buy, the better served you are by getting to know your merchant. In other words, the corner store or supermarket -- or even gas station, in some places -- is perfectly fine if you're buying a bottle of White Zinfandel or a 12-pack of Old Milwaukee, but would you want to buy a bottle of Château Cheval Blanc or a bottle of Chimay? (Not likely.) On the other hand, the serious wine merchant not only will have that bottle of wine (or beer), but many others -- some similar to those, but for less -- AS WELL AS the knowledgable sales staff to be able to assist you find the right wine(s) for your taste, as opposed to the "wine with the pretty label that's on sale."

                                      Where do you live? What city? First of all, in many locations, wine shops, university extension programs, community colleges, even some city Parks & Recreation Departments offer wine classes . . . this can be a great place to START learning more about wine, including how to identify the basics. But secondly, if we have a specific location for you (more specific than "eastcoast US"), we can probably recommend some good stores for you to check out . . .

                                      It's a place to start.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        ok thanx a lot guys. I am in the richmond virginia surrounding areas and the opposite direction would be about an hour from williamsburg virginia

                                        1. re: creamsherry

                                          OK, keep in mind I've only been in Richmond once, and that was about 12 years ago. . .

                                          I've *not* been to the Barrel Thief (Patterson & Libbie), but I like the concept.

                                          I've been to ONE location of Total Wine -- McLean? Fairfax? I don't remember. It seemed OK, but I wasn't all that excited -- then again, I live in California, so I'm used to having some great retailers in easy reach. In terms of selection, it's fine for buying current releases. Can't comment on pricing.

                                          But Virginia is the home to at least one excellent importer, Kysela Pere et Fils -- -- and it's worth giving them a call to see where his wines can be found in Richmond.

                                          One excellent way of finding great wines is to find an importer that you like, that you *know* ships in refers, and cares about what they bring into the US. Of course, the "founding father" of this category is Kermit Lynch.

                                          East Coast importers and/or agents well worth trusting include the aforementioned Kysela, Louis/Dressner, Robert Kacher, Terry Theise, Jorge Ordonez, and Weygandt-Metzler, to name a few.

                                          1. re: creamsherry

                                            Head over the hills to Blackberry Farm, in Walland, TN, and spend a few days tasting their older, and MUCH older wines. Then, you will have a "baseline" to compare to.



                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              I will save that info because that sounds like a good idea+something that could help while being enjoyable.

                                          2. re: zin1953

                                            and it doesn't have to be expensive. I used to attend tasting seminars (education with your tasting) in Tampa for barely the cost of the wine.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              yes this place that is closing down...going on about one half hour away....always had little wine tasting events, was a local place, and they had a pretty good selection plus even a small collection of microbeers. I never attended the wine event though; I received emails and while adding to my collection one time they were in the process of having one.

                                              1. re: creamsherry

                                                then your homework for May is to find your new wine home...and to sign up for one wine event.

                                                Don't worry if you're not currently in buying mode -- go -- drink wine -- learn -- and above all, enjoy -- and you may find something that you like enough to take home.

                                                And remember that not all wine needs to be mollycoddled and cosseted for decades...there are plenty of wines out there that are supposed to be consumed young...don't be the guy who has a cellar full of wine but never drinks a drop.

                                                Wine is an accompaniment for life -- á santé!

                                      2. Hmmm...a few thoughts:

                                        1. What was the seller-reviewer expecting from a 1994 wine from a Napa Valley winery whose wines are not meant for long aging? Harrison's wines are not deep-dish; they're priced at the low-end of the Napa Valley Cab spectrum and are meant to be drunk with just a few years of aging.

                                        2. Why did the seller-reviewer ascribe the problem to overoaking rather than to normal aging? He tasted the wine when it was 10 years old and already past its prime, and thought it was oaky then. The fruit had taken a hike, revealing the oak. So of course 3-4 years later it was solid wood.

                                        3. Harrison does have a slight tendency to overoak their wines. But this specific situation doesn't seem to be as much about overoaking as it is about a wine that had simply died a normal death.

                                        Bottom line for me: unrealistic expectations for a modest 1994 wine.

                                        Overoaking was/is a trend that is thankfully fading fast. Harmony is on everyone's mind.
                                        I've seen a huge retrenchment from heavy-handed aging in new French or American oak. What seems to be hot now is using 1- to 2-year-old barrels. Results in a softer touch.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          Winemaking is often like a pendulum -- now the trend is swinging back to less/lighter oak. But the thing about a pendulum is that it keeps swinging . . . in another decade or two, it will swing back again . . . with wines that are over-oaked or over-"something elsed"


                                          1. re: zin1953


                                            Good point. What is "hot" today, might be passé tomorrow.

                                            Also, what you like might not do it for me - we are individuals. If you feel that Zinfandel X is over-extracted, that is your call. I might like it, and will enjoy it.

                                            Now, I do feel that when investment bankers start blending and choosing the cooperage, things can go very wrong, as one segment of the market is targeted. If the winemaker has a vision, and the fruit, the provenance and other factors align, then the wines might well appeal to a broad enough group, to return a ROI. That investment might be $, might be time, might be barrels, or something else. The market will determine.

                                            What was considered "over-oaked" in 1970, might seem very light today. Who knows what 2050 will bring?


                                          2. re: maria lorraine

                                            Balance - that is the key IMHO.

                                            If one goes overboard anywhere, there can (and often will) be problems.

                                            Maybe the reviewer would be able to do better if he/she had visited Diamond Creek '94, or maybe a Joseph Phelps Insignia?


                                          3. For me, it is all about balance. If that balance can be maintained, I do not care about any % of this, or % of that.

                                            I feel that many focus on one aspect of a wine, and then beat it to death.

                                            In the end, I feel that it is not so much about numbers, as it is about winemaker skills.

                                            There may be concern for the age-worthiness of a particular wine, and only time will tell. If one loves a wine of a particular style, and buys it in quantity, they have the responsibility to taste it, as it ages. There are no guarantees - anywhere.