Why everyone should try old wines
Time and tide may not wait for you; but if you've chosen well, wine will.
We live in a culture where time is rarely seen as something to be welcomed. Consider the occasions where you've uttered a weak "I didn't have time..." to a question. Time is an obstacle, something that gets in the way of things.
How many adverts can you count on television that are aimed at one thing; arresting time. Whether it's the effects of ageing, speeding up your day-to-day routine, or even paying your mortgage off sooner.
When it comes to what we eat, sell-by and use-by dates are all important. Time just isn't on the side of food and drink. Even frozen food, making the most of our ability to delay the effects of ageing, is frowned upon by many as being sub-standard when compared to fresh.
Alone in this frenzy to avoid, slow or alter the effects of time is wine. The only drink that, given the right conditions, embraces the passing of years as something to be positive about, and in the process actually gets better.
Some things do get more valuable with age; antiques, vintage cars, works of art. But they've all stayed the same; it's our perception of them that's altered.
It's something that sprung to mind whilst enjoying this nearly 10-year old Australian Shiraz the other day.
It wasn't an especially awarded wine; picked up respectable points and medals, nothing out of the ordinary. It was also the first vintage John Durham (ex-Cape Mentelle) was winemaker there, so it's fair to say his experience has some bearing on its style and complexity.
It had that "dark berry fruits" (a catch-all for those of us who find it difficult to pick out mulberry/blackberry/blackcurrant individually) character, both in aroma and in flavour.
Those fine-grained tannins present too; in fact, these seem to get better with age, as they alter and help the wine along its journey through time.
The colour still a vibrant purple-red, with little if any signs of age.
Enjoyed with a simple Sunday meal of slow-cooked beef brisket and Yorkshire pudding with mushrooms, caramelised onions, roast potatoes. Nothing fancy; the wine played star-role instead.
It retails for around the £20 mark, so not an outrageously lavish spend (bear in mind, current vintages in the UK are likely to be 2010/11; already ageing nicely though).
But the combined impact those years had worked on it turned it into a £50 wine, easily, in the mind. The layers of flavour, complexity, and texture coming together in a welcome affirmation that it was worth the wait.
There's nothing new about viewing old wine in glowing terms.
(Although this is meant to be ironic; commenting upon the resistance to embracing Jesus' teachings.)
It is where wine transcends and overtakes all other drinks, whether beer or spirits. Only wine improves with age.
There's something satisfying sipping an old wine and thinking of what went on when those grapes were crushed. In this case, it was the year the iPhone was released, Sarkozy and Brown were in power, The Sopranos TV series ended, and the global financial crisis reared its head.
You don't need a cellar to age wines, just an unheated, dark place where they won't get disturbed. Nor do you need to spend a fortune; take a £15-20 price range and you should be OK for a decade's worth of ageing (bearing in mind the wine's actual vintage).
Then, when you choose to open your wine, you can sit back and marvel at the liquid in your glass, and just for a short while, allow yourself the luxury of going back in time.