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Holding on too long

By Dave Buchanan
oldcorks1.JPG I’ve been opening some old wines recently, thanks to a going-away reminder. When chef and restaurateur Dave Dame decided on Bisbee, Ariz, as his new home, we marked his going by opening a three-liter bottle of Beringer’s 1997 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The bottle was part of a fortuitous purchase seven or so years ago when the winery offered the limited big bottles for what now amounts to pocket change for a big-name California cab. Big bottles age more slowly than the normal .750 ml size and we were anticipating something just at its peak. It started a bit restrained, not at all like it was on release but after 30 minutes or so the nose opened up and more of the dark fruit and a bit of mint started showing on the palate. But we all agreed that this wine was at its peak, or maybe even a little beyond. Except for some notable exceptions (a traditional Barolo, for example), there’s danger in holding a wine too long. People wait and wait for the perfect occasion, forgetting a wine, like life itself, goes on. That caused me to look through the rest of the oldies in my cellar. They aren’t ancient, only a few as old as 12-15 years, but most of them weren’t made for long-term aging. Some of them have shown their age, brick-red around the edges and flat tasting. Others, however, have been brilliant, with still-bright fruit and soft tannins and a complexity only age can bring. I’m glad I didn’t wait.

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