Wines have changed and so have our palates. Due to such improvements as clean winemaking and closer attention to fermentation methods, wines have been dramatically transformed. Modern wines are more drinkable, more gratifying and more rewarding when drunk young than they were say 20 years ago.
Then come the key questions. Can they age as long? Probably. But do they need to? There's the killer question. As far as we are concerned, yes, this is iconoclasm - the attack of a cherished belief that has its basis in fact - most of the time. Yes, this statement is provocative - it demands rebuttal.
We believe it still makes sense to dream of having a wine cellar where the wines rest quietly for decades, getting better with time. We believe this because we know it is so. We also know that if you leave the wines too long, they get past their best-by date and can taste, in the worst instances, like vinegar.
So, to cellar or not?
Leaving wines for decades isn't a wise move unless you are confident of your ability to pick wines with the correct attributes and that's tied in with knowing your vintages, because they aren't all equal. Sometimes, a wine under cork will fail, too, due to cork taint which was inherent from the moment the wine was sealed.
This said, putting away a few bottles on a reviewer's recommendation for a few years will more often than not deliver good results. We all know that New Zealand pinot noir is sold young and consumed young - and it tastes just fine like that but it tastes even better given some time in the bottle. Just a couple of years can deliver all that is needed for you to experience a wine that has integrated and opened up a little. The days of having to consume sauvignon blanc within months of it being released are also over. As more and more people discover the beauty of a sauvignon that has softer acids and more integrated flavours, putting a bottle or two of your favourites away to see what happens can yield great results within a couple of years. I recall opening some Selaks Icon Sauvignon Blanc which had been sitting in chilled conditions, under cork, since 2001, and it tasted fabulous.
There is a caveat to cellaring wines, the flavours can change quite significantly and some people simply prefer younger, fresher, crisper flavours. If this is you, cellaring may not be in your best interests. We guess that's where the comment about changing palates comes into play.
All of which brings us back to whether it's worth ageing wines. It isn't essential to enjoyment of wine in the modern world, but it can allow the wine to give so much more in terms of taste. We don't need to do it, but if we do we may accrue extra benefits. With all this in mind, it's time to look at a few wines that can be enjoyed now or tucked away in the cellar for a year or two with confidence.
Rockburn Central Otago Fume Blanc ($39.99) Malcolm Rees Francis, winemaker at Rockburn, told us this is a wine that represents "some of the most fun I've had in my career so far!" It's a wine you don't need to drink chilled - just slightly cool, to appreciate the texture and all the lovely flavours on offer. It's clear that "the gauntlet has been thrown down" and we are drinking a not so sauvignon, sauvignon blanc.
Pale gold with lifted butterscotch, apricot and apple notes - creamy with underlying crispness. Lovely aromatic structure - can pick it's a sauvignon blanc due to the underlying grassiness. The palate is a well-integrated blend of apricots and creamy vanilla, spice and herbs with a crisp acid spine. Full-bodied with a lovely textural aspect and some flinty minerality towards the finish. A wine to savour - very satisfying. We agree with Malcolm when he says this wine can be cellared for a decade with confidence. Glorious now, and all the right attributes are there for it to age with grace. Worth seeking out.
Tohu Marlborough Single Vineyard Riesling 2013 ($21.95) Some lime and richer mandarin notes on the aroma with a jot of kerosene minerality. Soft, rounded floral notes also stand out. The palate is surprisingly crisp when compared to what was in the aroma. Crisp lemon, flinty mineral and some tingly sherbet flavours dominate.
The wine finishes clean and zingy, slightly sweet with a marked lemon note in the aftertaste. One to cellar, this wine would respond well to time and, once again, we think 10 years could transform it into something equally as delightful, but in a different way.
(Source: The Marlborough Express)