Even though it’s been over a year since we were able to go to our neighborhood wine bar, Augustine, we’ve still been celebrating some special occasions with aged wine. We don’t have a stocked cellar at home (we wish!), but were able to buy older bottles from Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, and through an online auction from K&L Wine Merchants. We like aged wine because it has earthy, fruit-leather aromas and flavors we don’t find anywhere else — but it can be hit or miss.
Before buying our bottles, we did a bit of research on what types of wine age best. Red wines tend to age better than whites; in general, the higher the acidity and tannins, the better it ages. As red wine ages, it turns towards a lighter red or orangish color. The acidity and tannins fade, some oxidation occurs, and a new set of subtle flavors emerge. Some wines that typically benefit from aging include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvèdre (Monastrell), Tempranillo, and the Italian varietals Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.
The quality of wine produced in a given year is also important; for Brian’s birthday we ordered an aged Bordeaux from 1982, which was viewed as a historic vintage. That wine was complex and earthy, with notes of berry pie. The bottle pictured above was for Emily’s birthday, chosen since it was from her birth year — probably not the best reason to pick a bottle of wine, but it was also good.