Thursday, October 27, 2011

Let's Hear It For Older Wines

Over at the online wine magazine Palate Press, fellow blogger W. Blake Gray ponders 10 things he learned during a brief stint of working directly within the wine trade. At the very top of his list is this: "Old wines are more unattractive to wine shops than old people." (It needs to be noted here that Blake's experience in the wine industry didn't involve working in a wine shop. If it did, he might better appreciate that wine-shop proprietors generally appreciate old people, or they should. Old people often have traveled widely, broadening their palates to such an extent that they welcome the diversity that a well-stocked store offers, including a range of well-aged wines. Of course, that experience also likely has immunized them to the hollow if hyperventilating hyperbole in which many wine merchants indulge, which could explain their alleged antipathy to the elderly. And then there's all that disposable income that several old people have accumulated.)

At any rate, Blake goes on to explain that consumers are skeptical about old wines because old wines make the store look out of touch. "It doesn't matter if a 2005 red is still approaching its peak; most stores don't want to buy it and can't wait to get rid of it."

Coincidental with his posting, I'd stopped by the Sacramento grocery store Corti Brothers. While browsing about the wine department, I spotted a stack of the Harbor Winery 2002 Napa Valley Narsai David Vineyard Merlot, whose price sticker said $13.79. How could I pass that up? After all, four savvy longtime participants in the wine trade - winemaker Charles Meyers of Harbor Winery in West Sacramento; all-around San Francisco Bay Area food-and-wine personality Narsai David; Berkeley graphic artist David Lance Goines, who designed the label; and grocer Darrell Corti - all had a hand in getting the wine from Napa Valley to Sacramento.

I took it home, opened it and poured it with a dinner of short-rib stew on creamy polenta with a side of roasted green beans, onions and walnuts, and a salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Let me tell you, this happenstance pairing was pretty darn great. The wine's color was more bright than faded, the aroma was all sweet plums and a hint of the kind of airy attic that prompts more adventurous exploration than intimidation, and the flavor ran to cherries and berries with a dash of spice. The texture was supple, the tannins far in retreat, yet it had the backbone and fruit to stand up to the richeness of the short ribs, spicy with paprika. The wine isn't approaching its peak; it's there. I just may have to get back to Corti Brothers before long to grab some more.

Yes, wine-shop owners may hesitate to stock older wines out of fear that they make the store look dated. More likely, merchants don't want to deal with consumers who return to complain that this or that aged wine didn't taste like the young wines they customarily drink. That's true, they won't. Age adds folds, lines and shading that wine doesn't possess in its youth. Thus, many proprietors won't have much to do with them. Fortunately, some still recognize that aged wines, while different, can offer and deliver compelling and rewarding stories.

1 comment:

  1. I treasure those wine shops when they are knowledgeable about the older wines that they carry. Many great finds are to be had.