Musings on Wine

Some General Comments About Aging Wines

The question I most often get asked about wine is how long a particular bottle will age. It's a difficult question to answer but these hints might help. More and more wines are made to drink upon release. Technology has provided winemakers with the tools they need, such as micro-oxygenation, to create wines full of fruit in youth with mellow tannins and softer acidity and seeing as wine drinkers today aren't as patient as their wine drinking ancestors, more and more wines of this style are being offered. Winemakers can now manage tannins and acidity in such a way that wines are delicious younger however these same wines often deteriorate faster than their predecessors would have if kept too long . This is especially true in younger wine regions such as the hotter, drier parts of South Africa, Australia, South America and California. There are, of course, many exceptions as you move up the price and quality scale and find yourself in cooler wine growing areas where acidity and tannin are naturally more robust.

Ten things I find very useful when judging wines for age ability.

  1. Wines must give you the impression of balance with some degree of complexity regardless of how young they are. In a young wine, fruit character may be hidden behind tannins that coat and dry your mouth or acidity that bites a little, however if the shy fruit can be found somewhere in the nose or mouth, you have to decide whether or not it will reveal itself in time. If the tannins strike you as too chewy and bitter, or the acidity green and sharp, they may never disintegrate enough regardless of how long you age the wine. The fruit will fade long before the tannins and acidity in wines such as this.
  2. Although alcohol serves to strengthen and preserve some wines such as Vintage Port or old dry Madeira allowing them to age for decades, a dry table wine with very high alcohol will still need adequate acidity, tannin and complexity to benefit from long cellaring. If a wine is obviously too boozy in youth but soft and round, it might be one to enjoy on the younger side.
  3. A wine that smells neutral and closed can become more expressive with aeration or aging. This applies to both young and aged wines. I find this to be especially true in cooler wine regions with mineral-rich soils. I recall opening a very expensive and rare bottle of already 10 year old Grand Cru Chablis only to discover it was surprisingly simple. What a disappointment! Luckily I kept two ounces of the wine in my glass as I proceeded through the dinner only to discover two hours later that the wine had finally emerged and was everything I'd hoped it would be. Good thing I didn't dump those final two ounces.
  4. In a related story, if a younger wine improves with aeration and warming as it sits in your glass, it is likely an excellent candidate for a long, slow maturation in a proper cellar where an even greater spectrum of aromas can develop.
  5. Wines destined to mature well will only do so if aged in a proper cellar. Although we don't all have cool, dark stone-walled rooms in our basements, the closer to that scenario you can get, the better. Aim for a steady 15 -18 degrees C, dark but safe and humid. Humidity can be accomplished by putting a large bucket or plastic pan of fresh water on the ground to allow the necessary evaporation to happen in too dry conditions. Keep in mind the biggest enemy of wines is severe fluctations in temperature and humidity.
  6. Don’t save wines for the special occasion that may never come. Drinking good wines when they are ready to drink is special occasion enough. Remember, the world is full of great wines and you've only got so much time to drink as many of them as you can!
  7. You are more likely to enjoy a wine consumed too young more than one consumed too old.
  8. As a general rule, good quality dry, white wines with adequate fruit and acidity can benefit from a minimum of 2 years and up to 8 years of aging. Good quality dry, red wines with adequate tannin and fruit will age well for at least 5 years and often as many as 12-15 years. Only in very rare cases do wines taste and smell better after 20 or more years.
  9. Ask yourself, do you like bright fresh fruity wines that might bite a little or are you willing to sacrifice some of the exhuberant fruit and vivacity for softer tannins, more polished acidity and additional tertiary aromas of dried fruit, leather, mushroom and old spice? Decide where on that scale your taste falls and drink what you like, when you want to drink it.
  10. Food will always change the way a wine tastes, generally for the better when properly matched.

My Favourite Wine Tasting Of 2011

A collection of passionate, seasoned wine lovers get together once a year to sample 'gems' from their respective cellars. These so-called gems might be expensive, or rare, or very old, or special in some other way, but in order to be considered gems, they must be amongst the most special bottles in our respective collections. We taste them double blind and we postulate what we think they might be - country of origin, grape variety and region with a rough idea of vintage. Some even go as far as guessing producer (and are correct from time to time) and others choose to 'pass' if a wine completely confounds them. Those who guess correctly are expected to share the wisdom of their insight with the rest of us making this not only a very enjoyable and humbling evening but an educational one also. Each particpant typically brings one or two bottles and some food to match in order to ensure our stomachs maintain a reasonable balance of alcoholic liquid and solid matter. The excellent food this year included home made water buffalo pastrami, fresh Pacific and Atlantic oysters on the half shell, smoked pork on ciabatta rolls, home made beef jerky, Asian noodles with bbq'd duck, Moroccan lamb sliders and a selection of excellent cheeses. The evening was a tremendous success, with perhaps the most impressive lineup of wines to date.  I will let the list speak for itself...


  1. Benjamin Bridge Brut 2004 - Nova Scotia
  2. 13th Street Grande Cuvee Blanc de Noirs 2006 - Niagara
  3. Etude Chardonnay 2009 - Carneros
  4. Chateau Carbonnieux 2007 - Pessac Leognan
  5. M. Lapierre Morgon 2009 (1500ml) - Beaujolais
  6. Domaine Cortochet Lavaux St. Jacques 1er Cru 1999 - Gevrey Chambertin
  7. Domaine de la Janasse 2001 - Chateauneuf-du-Pape
  8. Terre del Barolo Riserva 1980 - Barolo
  9. Mayacamus Cabernet Sauvignon 1975 - Napa
  10. Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1985 - Napa
  11. Chateau Reynella Basket Pressed Shiraz 1995 - McLaren Vale
  12. Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1977 - Napa
  13. Cune Imperial Gran Reserva 1999 - Rioja
  14. Kanonkop Pinotage 1994 - Stellenbosch
  15. Torbreck The Steading GSM 2005 - Barossa Valley
  16. Penfold's St. Henri Shiraz 1987 - South Australia
  17. Banfi Poggia Alla Mura 1998 - Brunello di Montalcino
  18. Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe 1989 - Chateauneuf-du-Pape
  19. Masi Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone Classico 1978 - Valpolicella
  20. Qupe Hillside Select Syrah 1999 - Bien Nacido


Cellar Gems Wine Tasting 1 of 3

Cellar Gems Tasting - 3 of 3

Randy Dunn's 1985 Howell Mountain Cab

Wine Review: 2007 Capitolium - Fronton, France

NAME: Capitolium
ORIGIN: Fronton, France
GRAPE(S): Negrette (R), Cabernet Franc (R)
ALCOHOL: 12.5%
PRICE: $12.40 (store clearance)
SOURCE: L.C.B.O. #200022
TWO WORD NOTE: Roasted fruity
THOUGHTS ON FOOD: A simple, rustic fruity red wine like this is ideal for simple, rustic meat and vegetable dishes, such as roasted lamb or beef, grilled vegetables with olive oil and hard cheese or bean stews with tomatoes.

COMMENTS:  A too often overlooked appellation just north of Toulouse in southwestern France, Fronton produces excellent rosé and red wines from the native Negrette variety blended with smaller amounts of Cabernets and Syrah. This is a region to consider if you are looking for good value wines for gulping with friends (or go there for a fantastic spring vacation!). Often it is these obscure regions that offer the best value due to the fact that demand and media attention isn’t there to drive prices up. Although this wine was available only in limited stock at the time of this review, other wines from this region will appear on LCBO shelves from time to time and are worth searching out. Serve this wine lightly chilled to allow the fruit character to shine.

A Few Thoughts on Wine Scores

As a rule, I’m not a big fan of wine scores. It seems to me a product that takes several years to make, changes in the bottle over time and tastes remarkably different beside different foods is pretty much impossible to define by a single number.  Everyone has different sensitivities, likes and dislikes so how can one expert possibly speak for the many millions of wine lovers out there? Don't get me wrong, I understand that in a world with roughly 14 million commercially available wines from over 1 million wineries, the average shopper needs some kind of guidance to increase the odds of success. Applying a single number makes choosing easier, as long as your palate and tastes are aligned with that of the reviewer.

The most popular scoring scheme is the 100-point scale. Robert Parker Jr. and The Wine Spectator are credited with making this system most famous. When Sir Parker gave a wine 90 points or above, it was pretty much sure to sell out. People started to pay a lot of attention to his scores in The Wine Advocate and he became so influential that winemakers around the world starting making wines that would please Parker's palate in the hopes scores and sales would soar. These wines became known simply as “Parker wines”. I have two problems with this system. 99% of the wine-drinking public can’t afford wines that score 93 points or above, and wines scoring below 87 rarely get mentioned. By my math, that’s 7 useful numbers out of 100.

There are others who prefer the 20-point scale, amongst them famed UK master of wine Jancis Robinson. It is generally agreed that wines scoring below 12 are horrifically poor or even faulted, and those 18 or above are extra special. The rest fall between 13 and 17 points with those getting 15 or higher considered to be the equivalent of bronze, silver and gold progressively. Additionally, you find 3 glasses (Tre Bicchieri) used by notable Italian wine publication Gambero Rosso and others who use 5 points or 5 stars, however none of these scoring systems seems adequately represents the real needs of the wine buying public.

Wine Food will not use a points system and we won’t quantify wine value. Instead, we will provide you with as much useful information as we can in our wine reviews to make it easier for you to decide whether or not you are willing to exchange your hard-earned dollars, whatever the total, for a particular bottle of wine, which we hope you will enjoy. Our two word note will provide a tasting note using the two key descriptors that most resonate in the wine, while our comments section is provided to give you some additional insight to the wines production, region of origin, or any other trivia that you might find interesting. If by looking at a wine from all angles including quality, character, food compatibility, drinkability and even the mood you should be in to best enjoy it, and through that we lead you towards a wine that suits your personal likes and dislikes, regardless of score, we will have accomplished our goal.


Please, we really must know ...

We’re not entirely sure, but he likes to shake things up and he’s not exactly a conformist.

WineFoodMan says “Use Your Senses, Dammit!”