Anyone can do it, and affordably too.
For most people the idea of aged wine definitely conjures something snobby and stuffy. But if you have patience, there is something to be said about tasting wine after it’s had a few years or more to evolve in the bottle.
The biggest misconception about old wine is that it’s automatically better. Because a bottle is old doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to be good. What is certain is that as a wine ages, it definitely changes. This factor is both exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. A wine that tastes amazing one night might have evolved completely away from your taste in a year if you decide to add a bottle or two to a collection.
Another misconception is that bottles of wine that you can age cost a lot of money. If you have the bankroll, grabbing some high-end Bordeaux or Californian wines are a great way to pick up some bottles that will age. When we are talking about grand cru Bordeaux (starting at a several hundreds of dollars a bottle), under ideal conditions, these wines could age for 20 to 30 years.
For most of us living in Toronto, ideal conditions can be difficult to obtain. You need a place that is consistent in temperature and humidity and ideally away from light. A wine fridge is great, as long as the power doesn’t go out in the summer and you have room for an extra fridge in your home. Lacking these tools doesn’t mean you’re unable to age wine, but the conditions will take some years off the life of whatever bottle you have chosen to age. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth building a collection if you don’t have a cellar, but keeping wine around the house for really long periods of time is off the table.
The elements that contribute to the ageability of a bottle are tannin, acid, sugar, and alcohol. So when it comes to wines from Ontario we have a few options for building a collection. In a hot summer, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon make great wines that you could age for five to 10 years depending on the producer. If it hasn’t been a hot summer, you can always count on Icewine and Riesling to build a cellar.
I recently had the opportunity to taste through several bottles of Ontario Riesling with an average age of 10 years old. While consumed young, you end up with orchard fruit and citrus with mineral notes and bright crisp acidity. When the wines get a little older, the fruit starts to disappear and the mineral flavours take centre stage. The fruit flavours have become more like honey, but the wines didn’t become any sweeter. To be honest, I wouldn’t say that they are any better or worse than younger Rieslings, but they are certainly different. With most high quality Riesling hovering around the $20 mark, we can all afford to make an investment in a collection.
Here’s what’s new in Vintages this weekend.
Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling – Vintages 206326 – $28.95 – **** –
There is a nice bread-like note that climbs out of the glass. Granny Smith apple and lime follow the yeasty notes. When you take your first taste, you’re greeted with bright notes of everything from the nose, but when you get to your second and third sips, the depth of this wine really starts to come through. There are hints of vanilla, and almost a nuttiness that try to poke their way through all the fresh fruit flavours. If you kept a bottle around in the cellar for a few years, it would likely change dramatically. This is priced perfect to sit on the shelf next to Ontario counterparts. It’s a bottle that is worth seeking out, and something to anticipate for future releases.
2014 Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay – Vintages 489591 – $24.95 – **** –
There is a baking spice note that works its way from nose to finish on this wine that gives it this nice depth and complexity that speaks like it should cost a little more than the price would suggest. There is a nice creamy texture to this wine that fills your whole mouth. Apples, tangerine, and pear take turns climbing out of the glass and dancing on your tongue before perfectly balanced acidity take over and keep the finish of the wine light. That being said, a note of vanilla and spice lingers for a while after you take your sip.
2011 Ridgepoint Pinot Noir – Vintages 89003 – $14.95 – ***½+ –
There is something rich and concentrated about this Pinot. The nose is cherry and it pushes right up to the line of being cherry pie. There is a slight smoky and cocoa note that rises above the fruit. The tannin is a little firm and this wine would benefit from nine to 12 months on its side before opening, or at the very least some decanting to really enjoy it. There is nice acidity that will make this a great match to roast lamb, beef, or pasta and tomato sauces.
2014 Dirty Laundry Say Yes Pinot Gris – Vintages 423202 – $19.95 – **** –
This should be the point of winter when we are all sick of the weather and are looking for bottled sunshine. Even with the mild weather, I still think we could all use a little of that bottled sunshine. The fruit in this Pinot Gris brings something ripe and delicious and makes a grape that I generally overlook very interesting. Your first sniff of the glass may feel a little typical, with a nice mineral note and some apple in there; your second brings ripe peaches and nectarine. There is nice acidity to balance this wine, so you better enjoy the fruit while it’s in your mouth because it finishes clean on the palate.