Even if the cellar is only an interior closet where the temperature holds steady during the year, do your palate and appreciation of the nuances of wine a favor and set aside at least three bottles of a favorite young red wine for future tasting.  Wines from the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Rioja and California (Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir) are widely available and worth exploring. Establish a strategy for the selection process, such as trying several of the same category in different price ranges. Also, think about starting a collection of wines from the same vintner in good vintages so you can have a vertical tasting later (e.g. 2001, 2005 and 2009 wines from the same winery).

Plan future tastings based on the power of the each wine you select. You might want to revisit an intense Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa in two years, then determine how long to wait for the next tasting. Watch the color of a rich red wine go from deep garnet, to slightly brick around the edges to more amber with age. Enjoy the evolution of the nose, from the big herbaceous character of a Cabernet Sauvignon in its youth to a complex area of mint, berries, cedar and leather (the nuances vary according to the winery’s style, use of wood, terroir, etc.). Beyond tracking the evolution of your wines, one of the great pleasures of keeping some older wines is to share the adventure with friends.

The following are some older wines tasted during the past few months and Tweeted about. Some of the notes have been expanded beyond the 140-character limit for additional impressions on each wine.  The word “impressions” is key, too. These are my impressions. Everyone has the same basic tool kit (eyes, nose, and palate) but different sensitivities and preferences. The bottom line: if you like it, it’s good (no matter what any critic might say). Buy accordingly.

Evolving Wines

Older Bordeaux treat 1989 Cos d’Estournel St. Estephe. Cedar, earth, tobacco nose (wine is usually about 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 38 percent Merlot and a dash of Cabernet Franc; aged 18 months in French oak casks) ; balanced; rich finish. Some life left. W/beef.

La Mission Haut Brion 1975 Graves. Mid-brick red, amber edges; classic Graves nose (earthy, mineral), Cabernet and Merlot fruit, oak (12 months in new oak barrels); balanced on the palate; long multi-layered finish. Big tannins from the vintage softening, but some life left.


Big Chateau Beaucastel 2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Earthy, woody nose; strong tannins; long rich finish. Needs time. W/short ribs. Blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah.

Joseph Drouhin 2001 Gevrey Chambertin (a village wine). Light to mid-brick. Smokey, earthy, Pinot Noir nose; mid-body, but softening, rounding out, peaked. W/beef, lighter sauces.

Joseph Drouhin 2005 Nuits St. George (village wine). Mid-garnet, brick edges. Earthy Pinot Noir nose; minerals, wood; mid-body, some tannins, slightly tart finish. W/beef bourguignon.

Banfi 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. Mid-brick, amber edges. Ripe Sangiovese nose, earthy; mid-body, good tannins, balanced finish. W/saltimbocca.

Castelgiocondo 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. Fully aged. Amber edges. Earthy, herbaceous nose; balanced, soft, ripe; long finish. Very drinkable w/veal.

Casanuova della Cerbaie 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. Mid-brick, amber edges; herb, mint, leather, mushroom nose; mid-body; softening; refined structure; fine flavor, finish.

Caymus 1988 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Light brick color; varietal nose, hints of mint, wood; good fruit but softening; old Cabernet finish. W/beef, lighter sauces.

Caymus 1974 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (magnum). Mid-brick, amber edges; older varietal nose; flowery, light mint, earth, tobacco; soft, decent fruit, but short finish. W/beef, lighter sauces.

Saddleback Cellars 1999 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark garnet. Herbaceous varietal nose, hints of vanilla, mint; balanced fruit, tannins; rich finish. Some life left. W/beef, any sauce.