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Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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On Age And Aging
January 1998


One of the best parts of every holiday season is how people you haven't seen in months, years, or decades drop back into your life. Wine lover Jack Fedigan, my best friend's father, showed up for Thanksgiving weekend, and we all got together post-turkey for a big red meat meal to showcase a couple of ancient Bordeaux he'd brought with him from his cellar. This is what I like: a guy who's not afraid to air his wine cellar out a little bit!

We started with a 1967 Clos Rene from Pomerol that was beautifully aged, clear and ruby-colored with soft fruit flavors and light chewy tannin. Next up, the 1966 Chateau Cos Laboury from St.-Estephe was a year older but amazingly tasted 15 years younger. It was filled with bright fruit and lively, prickly tannin that showed no signs of softening. "My God," I said, "they're so old, but they're still alive." Jack, in his seventies, gave me a little sneer. "That's the whole point," he said.

One way to think about how wine ages is to imagine a pond full of water. This is a young wine that's full of fruit flavor. As the wine ages, the water level drops, the fruit recedes and reveals textures and details resting beneath the surface. Sometimes, these details are a lovely little submerged island, or a dramatic outcropping of stone. Sometimes, they're an old Chevy Nova with a body in the trunk. Hopefully the former.

Ever since Jack opened my eyes to the destiny and responsibility of age-worthy wines, I've been hesitating to drink anything young. The kind of character excellent wine reveals when tested by age is a beautiful tribute to time itself, and a good example of how people can work to make time worthwhile.

In the last six months or so, I've carved out a little corner of our basement storage bin that has two earthen walls and looks destined to become a proper wine cellar. Thirty years from now, maybe I can be enjoying great home-aged 1995 Bordeaux from my own collection, if I can just keep my hands off it.

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