Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Maturity and Cellaring Time

Each wine in a Vintages Release includes a description that comes from a variety of sources: reviewers local to the wine, our own local reviewers, distributors or, if nothing else is available, an anonymous panel or wine tabloid. Only a few of the notes carry much currency in my view so, unless the reference is a current review from The Wine Spectator or A. Gismondi, I tend to ignore them - altho‘ most of the descriptions are included as part of my blog entries - and I haven’t paid much attention to the symbol included with each wine description. Vintages uses three: ‘drink‘, ‘drinkhold’ and ‘hold‘ if I go by their .gif names. The specific meanings are likely somewhere in a catalogue or webpage but I haven’t found them yet.

Except for Rod Phillips’ WinePointer I haven’t seen any similar symbols used by other reviewers. Nor, if a rating system is used, no mention of points attributed to either Cellaring Potential or Maturity, one being a projection of time taken and likelihood to improve and the latter being the here and now. Why I even look for these indicators is likely the notion ingrained as a member of the Opimian Wine Society.

My opinion is that every wine review to be complete should indicate somehow a wine’s maturity and cellaring potential. When an ‘Opimian’ - I was well past my fifteenth year before leaving - I stuck labels on each bottle repositioning drinkables as they came to maturity. The Opimian symbols (see inset, sorry for the fuzz) cover everything: Current Maturity of a wine, Current drinkability, a Projection of Time to Cellar, and How long a wine is likely to be at peak. The symbols are easily understood and well thought out.

Since going on my own I haven’t been as meticulous - I no longer label. I simply locate newly bought wines in different sections of the wine racks labelled: Drink Now(DN), Lay Down 2Yrs(L2), Lay Down Longterm(LD), Sparklers, Desserts, For Tasting(T). Whites, rosés and reds are kept separate so I can balance purchases with our consumption. Sometimes a bottle gets forgotten or prematurely put on the dinner table but in a small cellar (1000 btls) nothing really gets lost that often nor for long. This blog lets me keep track of the history of wines bought and tasted and a quick search using the LCBO SKU, a Label or Winery leads me to my original notes.

There seems to be uncertainty in most approaches to gauging Maturity and Cellaring Time. They don’t follow any mathematical rules depending more on prior experience and a knowledge of what to look for in a tasting of a particular wine. Both could be tied closely to individual tastes. Cellaring Time is a thumbsuck and has a dependency on where a wine is to be stored. Storing at a consistent 57F and controlled humidity allows for longer cellaring than in a basement closet at 67F and seasonal/home heating humidity changes for instance. Does a wine have enough fruit, tannin, acid? Does it have an appropriate balance of these elements and will this balance change such that the wine improves or fades over time turning today's attributes into delights or discards? It comes down to assessing and predicting how a complex liquid will evolve. I try to include my prediction of Drinkability and Cellaring Time verbally in every My notes… then update it whenever I Retaste.
My opinion, Ww

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