Well-Aged Wines: Red, White, and Sweet

May 31, 2011

So many memorable bottles, dishes, and sights on my recent trip France's Loire Valley, but one of the most eye-opening takeaways was the ageability of a wide variety of the wines. If I was starting a wine cellar, rather than stuffing it with pricey Bordeaux (no offense, Bordeaux. xxoo, Jameson), one of the first wines I would load up on would be Loire Cabernet Franc. A visit to Domain Baudry in Chinon cemented this feeling. The 1989 Les Grézeaux, well-worn cork pictured above, rocketed my fellow traveling companions into the stratosphere of wine appreciation. I have to admit it was one of the most fascinating wines I have ever tasted. This Loire Cab Franc matured into an extremely complex red that would make many of the bottles from more famous wine regions blush. (If glass could blush, that is.)

I never expected to drink a Pouilly-Fumé (which, along with neighboring Sancerre, is home to some of the world's most famous Sauvignon Blanc) over two decades old. Even more surprisingly, I never expected I would enjoy it. The 1990 Domaine de Riaux was smooth and mellow; the bracing acidity that is a hallmark of Loire Sauv Blanc probably helped preserve this wine and keep it remarkably drinkable. I wouldn't recommend keeping any Sauvignon Blanc for two decades, but I think drinking a wine like this is a testament to the quality of the grapes and the winemaking. And the place as well; I thoroughly enjoyed my Pouilly-Fumé 101 with winemaker Alexis Jeannot, who taught us about how soil and site contribute to what ends up in your glass.

And while I always knew Vouvray, made from the Chenin Blanc grape, could age, I was floored by how youthful the sweet versions were. Both of the above wines will last for many, many, many more decades. I hate to sound morbid, but my first thought on drinking the Pinon Vouvray (the cork from 1964 is on the right) was, "This will outlive me." Before the vintage was revealed, I proffered a guess that it was from 1990. Of minor importance is how I was more than two-and-a-half decades off, which in no way sullies my reputation as a wine professional. (Though my fragile, porcelain ego did suffer a blow.) The more important lesson here is how youthful a wine of 47 years can taste. Though sweet, unctuous, golden, and insanely delicious, it had a freshness about it with some very present, lively acidity. I'd put the over/under on it at a century.

So while freshness, purity, and approachability are the hallmarks of many of the wines of the Loire, don't forget about them when you are looking for well-priced gems to hide away in your cellar for a few years or, even, a few decades.

Full disclosure: These winery visits were made possible as a sponsored guest of the Loire Valley Wine Bureau.



Andie Mitchell's picture

Jameson, I love your musings on wine. Thanks for sharing all that vino knowledge :)

Jameson Fink's picture

Thank you, Andie! More from the Loire to come...

Jameson Fink's picture

Thank you for reading and the kind words!

Marika's picture

You more than anyone else inspire me to learn more about wine, rather than drinking it straight from the box. :)

Jameson Fink's picture

One less dish to wash when you drink it straight from the box!