Shockingly, I have an opinion on collecting wine (ok, if you've read the blog more than once or been to a tasting with me you know it's not shocking AT ALL). Although I love having 20 - 50 bottles in reserve that I can enjoy or share for special occasions, I am not a wine collector. It's not that I'm cheap or kinda poor (although winning the lottery would be great), I really like to use and enjoy what I have. I don't collect anything -- no coins, no stamps, no snow globes (although I used to collect and trade stickers in elementary school and my sister would always screw me royally on the trades, so maybe it's just left over bitterness! I still long for my puffy, googly-eyed, velvet, hologramed alien that she took for a few measly FLAT dog stickers).
Apart from the few bottles of wine that I hold to see how they will change and develop with time, the horizon for my wine collection is pretty short, with a regular replenishment cycle running at full efficiency. In this way, I can keep tabs on what I want to hold and when I'll want to bust it open.
One of the main issues that a lot of people with large cellars face is: "How the hell am I going to DRINK all that?" The answer is, they aren't. And if they don't manage their cellars properly they may miss the window when a wine is at its best.
I bring this up because on Saturday night I had a much anticipated bottle of wine that I have been holding for 5 years. It was the Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel, a breathtakingly lovely wine that I thoroughly enjoyed and greedily consumed last August. I remembered it as velvety and having a great balance of mineral and fruit. I had high expectations.
But my hopes of deliciousness were soon dashed. This bottle, although purchased at the same time as the other and stored in the exact same place, was tight, acidic, and lacked any fruitiness. It had harsh vinegar notes and was thoroughly unpleasant. The smell was bitter, the taste was jarring, and the wine was way past its prime. Damn! I should have had it last year with the other great bottle. But then I was tweeting with a fellow blogger, the Decatur Wine & Food Dude. He and I decided to open our 2003 bottles at the same time and compare notes...His was phenomenal. Here's a snippet of his experience:
"Initially, this 2003 revealed a rather brawny and tannic wine that needed some time to shed its youthful outer shell. This recent bottle was the most "ready" of any of the bottles opened. The tannins had mostly faded to a sweet backdrop and the darkish fruit was open, sweet, and lush. The wine will probably drink well for many more years, but there's really no reason to wait to open a bottle."Please check out his review for more details (he talks a little more about Tablas Creek and his blog is great!)
So a few thoughts on my experience with the bum bottle.
- First of all, much like a pair of jeans, there is variation from bottle to bottle in wine. Some wines come from different barrels or tanks and there is some variation in the blend -- we're talking about wine, not Velveeta, so there is going to be a little more wiggle room.
- Second, you can't always judge a producer off one bottle of wine. I had a motto when I was younger -- you need to try everything TWICE (just to make sure the first time wasn't a fluke). I'm going to reinstate that with wine. Tablas Creek is FABULOUS and I love their wines. Yes, I had a really bad bottle, but I'm not going to write it off because I know they can do better. My advice -- keep an open mind...until you've had the producer 2 times and it sucks both times!
- Third, I think I proved my rule with collecting. What if I had held that bottle for 10 years and it was that bad? How bummed out would I be? A lot of wines can be held for 10 to even 50 years, but they are probably at their prime on the earlier rather than later side. I just don't see the rationale in holding something to hold it. Enjoy life and drink the stuff, wine peeps! If you wait to long, the wine may be spoiled and no one wants that.