With age, just like wine, shall it all become more refined? I wish the answer to that question were true, although I think it’s the polar opposite. The majority of wine industry experts, tend to agree that only a few percent of wine actually does improve with age. Does that mean that the bottle of Molly Dooker the Boxer Shiraz will only be good for a few short years? Not necessarily, although the wine may only hold up and taste like it should for only a few years. Many wines may stay in a ‘limbo” state, where they can hold its flavor for a few years, but deteriorate soon after. All too often when someone sees a wine that is older than 5-6 years, an assumption of quality is given to it without a second thought. There are many variables that can help a wine age. A balance of acidity, tannins, sugars, oak, all need to come together in harmony. Even with a “great palate,” I feel as if that balance can be subjective. If someone isn’t familiar with how a 1921 Chateau d Y’quem should taste, but is familiar with how highly regarded it is – I’m certain that the wine will be deemed amazing without a fair assessment. Our predecessors who were the experts in wine, were taught by their predecessors of what a fine aged wine should taste like. Our palates are directly influenced by our neighbors, our friends, and or people in the wine trade. We must qualify and validate what we are tasting and how we perceive that. Essentially, we build up a wall to new flavors, new styles of wine-making, and the way that wine SHOULD taste. With age, just like wine, everything changes – the question is it for better, or for worse?
I feel as the years go by, people’s palates become regimented – I am 100% guilty of that. Is that a bad thing? I can’t say that it is, although I believe that it keeps you from experiencing what the world has to offer. The curmudgeons tongue, dominates free thinking. Remember being young, and hating Brussels sprouts? I do, but now I crave them almost every day! With experience, shouldn’t we just know exactly what we do and don’t like? Yes, but we also close our minds. I’ve been in the mindset of drinking incredibly high acidic whites, and the funkiest/earthiest reds the old world can muster. I drink those styles of wine almost strictly. When I come across a wine label that I’ve seen and or tasted hundreds of times, more likely than not I will completely disregard that wine and deem it unworthy. I feel like we all do that to some extent. We find a stride with what we like, and go with it. Our palates dull with time, just like our sense of smell. We all have or had a Grandma who wears a perfume that you can smell 20 blocks down the road. Is it because she is trying to cover up the smell of something, or is it because she can barely smell her own perfume and sprays a judicious amount to know that she is actually wearing something?
Let us get rid of our pre-conceived notions on how a wine should taste. Let us appreciate it for what it is. If you drink only reds, order a glass of white wine at your local restaurant. If you only drink acidic whites, earthy French reds (cough cough) drink a fruit bomb! Revolt! With age, just like a wine, will we die in a bitter taste? I certainly hope not, but only a few of us will change for the better
Daniel Schmerr, Staff Sommelier