Today, I have a much different perspective on the benefits of aging wine than I did 25 years ago.
Back then, when I was 28 years old, the concept was intriguing, somewhat mysterious and even a bit romantic.
We’d all heard certain people in our lives described as “aging gracefully, like a fine wine.” But what did that mean? I could understand the concept of wine changing over time…but did it always get better?
Sometimes, it seemed like a giant leap of faith. Other times, it made perfect sense.
And on those occasions when it made sense, I would buy a bottle that had been deemed “ageworthy” by a trusted critic, with every intention of “laying it down” for 20 years and opening it on a special occasion. Over a period of about five years, I purchased probably 50 bottles specifically for long-term aging.
Someone once said, “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been,” and I applied that concept to wine: Each step of its evolution would contribute something to the wine that I would pour into a glass two decades hence.
Well, exactly five of those 50 or so bottles made it to the 20-year mark. The others were opened at various times for various reasons—a special birthday…a story in Wine Spectator stating it was time to drink those 1985 Napa Cabernets…too much “other” wine consumed in the hours leading up to uncorking that special bottle.
I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who observed, “Hell is paved with good intentions…”
So what did those five well-aged wines taste like? Did they evolve into liquid treasures of hedonistic pleasure? Were they “better” than they were 10 or 15 years earlier, when their siblings were consumed? Or did they simply grow old?
To me, they were no better and no worse. They simply were…different.
Was I glad I had managed to keep the corkscrew away from them for so long, as I had planned? Yes, if for no other reason than to learn that aging wine is an uncertain, somewhat risky endeavor.
In other words, it is a pursuit for the young.