I’m sure you’ve seen it on bottles and on websites: “This wine should be drunk young”. There is no science to this, just experience, and as with any advice, it should really always be accompanied by a disclaimer.
In this case, the grape is Gamay Noir, the grape of Beaujolais, a region renowned for producing the quintessential wine-to-be-drunk-while-young, the Beaujolais Nouveau. However, this particular Gamay comes from a neighbouring region, the Cote Roannaise actually part of the Loire Valley.
As was my due, I bought and received several cases of their main wine, the 2000 Cote Roannaise, which my wife and I enjoyed drinking as directed, whilst it was young. I remember it having bright red cherry fruit, being slightly tart, and with more than a hint of that slightly dry, cherry stone character that marks out more ‘traditional’ Old World wines and separates it from the more fruit-driven New World competitors. I enjoyed, it, my wife slightly less so.
This was what the wine trade like to describe as ‘Food Wine’ – best enjoyed with something to balance the acidity (and/or tannin).
Of the cases we had in 2001/2 I think we drank everything within a year or two.
Except for 1 bottle.
Which I opened tonight, in 2012.
What a surprise!
I had spied it a few times when glancing through the wine cellar under the stairs, but kept thinking, “One day I should see what that has turned out like” … and that fateful night, thanks to the need to create a space for a new bottle, was tonight.
What a complete surprise! This wine STILL tastes bright, alive and young, though it has changed a bit.
The bright red fruit of its youth has now been replaced with more dried cranberry and dried leaf notes on the nose, but a certain perfume persists. The taste is still fresh, there is still plenty of acidity, and the light body remains. Despite being a lighter wine, the side of the bottle was coated with the tannins that had come to rest there. The unripe aspect of the tartness has mellowed to leave the taste of those cranberries again – slightly darker now, but still bracing and sharp, perfect for the chicken and lentil dish it accompanied, and the flavours rested gently in the mouth before fading gracefully.
I suspect this wine would be hard to sell as it is now. It doesn’t have the promise of youth, and would have been unlikely to have improved further, but it is a venerable wine that has survived in less-than-ideal conditions over the last 10+ years, and the wrinkles and weathered features suit it. It was a pleasure to meet this wine again after all these years, and learn that like people, old wines can be lots of fun and we still have a lot to learn from them.
I must look up the winery and see what they are up to these days.