Drink young and beautiful: wines that needn’t wait
A conventional wisdom that is imparted when you begin to learn about wine is that serious wines benefit from age. But I reckon that’s a tenet that needs re-examining.
The other week, for example, I went to a vertical tasting of wines by Felton Road, a New Zealand producer I love and whose products I (very occasionally) buy when I’m feeling particularly extravagant. Although these wines age impressively, they’re just so goddamn delicious when they’re young.
I’ve also been tasting the widely acclaimed 2016 vintage ports, which are just gorgeous even at this early stage. Is it wrong to drink them – and other recent vintages – when they’re capable of ageing for 30 years? Well, maybe, but without being doomy about it, you and I may not be around in 30 years’ time. You won’t find them on the shelf just yet, but you can buy a delicious 2013 such as Sandeman’s Quinta do Seixo (20.5%) for £26.49 from Alexander Hadleigh or £29.26 at Lay & Wheeler and consume it the same night, if you choose.
So, if your own age plays a part in deciding how soon to drink a wine – and younger drinkers tend to prefer vibrant, fruity wines to the more subtle, evolved flavours of older ones (and are unlikely to have a house, never mind a cellar, to store them in) – maybe it is time for a rethink. Never liked the widely admired, slightly petrolly flavours that riesling acquires over time? Drink it younger. Or the forest floor character that’s referred to in the wine trade as “sousbois” and that is frequently found in older reds? Crack ’em open.
I’m not saying there aren’t wines that need time; good red burgundy, for instance, usually benefits from having four to five years after bottling, as do northern Italian reds such as barolo and barbaresco, which take time to get into their stride. Just-released wines from a new vintage can be a bit clunky – I wouldn’t be drinking most 2018s just yet, except for sauvignon blanc and riesling, which tend to taste better than other varieties in their youth – but there are fewer than there used to be. Even bordeaux is designed to be drunk young these days, and the 2015s and 2016s are particularly delicious.
Remind yourself that more wines are wasted by keeping them too long than by drinking them too soon, and give yourself permission to open that bottle you’re keeping for a special occasion. Or, if need be, simply invent an occasion to drink it. to garnish A truly British cocktail and, unusually, one with an undisputed inventor: Dick Bradsell, who died in 2016, was a legend of the British bar scene. It was inspired by the British pastime of brambling, when the blackberry bushes that grow in hedgerows and wasteland come into fruit, before the season ends with the first hard frost.
Shake the gin, lemon juice and syrup with ice, then strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice. Drizzle the crème de mûre on top and garnish with a blackberry – ideally one that you’ve foraged yourself.
From The Home Bar, by Henry Jeffreys (Jacqui Small, £25)