Western Living Magazine
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The first in a series of affordable bottles that get better with age.
The conventional wisdom is that only a small percentage of wines that are created (the figure of 5% is often bandied about) are meant to be aged. That’s broadly true, in that very few producers are making wine with the intention that you age it. For the most part they’d appreciate if you drink it and then buy another bottle. And repeat. That sort of customer is a dream for the bottom line. But a chance encounter with wine consultant and educator Iain Phillip a few years back opened up a whole new world of wine possibilities. It was a blind tasting and while there were plenty of bottles representing the usual suspects of aged wineBordeaux, Super TuscansIain had brought, if I remember correctly, an utterly nondescript bottle of Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon from the late 1980s. It was not only classic supermarket wine, it still had a supermarket price tag on it (it was under $5). My head reeled at what was going on: for starters, Iain had lovingly cellared this bottle for decades. It was very likely the rarest (if not the most valuable) bottle there, because while most owners of a bottle of 1986 Chateau Margaux cellar it, most (ok, all save Iain) owners of 1986 Columbia Crest do not. The wine wasn’t a revelation, but it was still kicking and fantastically interesting.
So I started to do the same thing. At our old offices I found a bottle of 13 year old Periquita that had literally been hiding in the wine room because no one cared about it. It was likewise still jumping when I cracked the cork and got the real joy of earthy and leather notes. So with that in mind I wanted to start a series where I sussed out bottles that, despite their low price and often unpretentious set-up, nonetheless stand a good chance at improving with age. And to be fair, many bottles won’t. Apothic and most other overly fruit-forward and sweet wines generally will suck (worse than they do now I mean). Wines like that sacrifice structure (a must for most aging) and acidity in favour of the more immediate pleasure of lush, ripe fruit.
Up first: Verdicchio. God, I love aged Verdicchio. The white grape form the Marche region of Italy used to be one of the stalwarts back when Iain was socking away bottles of Columbia Crest, but the 2000s saw its star wane as a populist grape. But if anything, the quality and it’s ability to age has only gotten better since then. I had a bottle of 2003 Fazi-Battagliait’s that wine in the fish-shaped bottlea few years back, and it was great: waxy, salty, almost as if a piece of aged Parmigiano transformed into wine. And Fazi is a very low end example of the grape. The bottle above from Umani Ronchi is leaps and bounds better. It has a deep yellow hue and some really nice almond notes but with a splash of lemon juice-like acidity. It’s that acidity that will make this a wonder in 8 years, with a more waxy texture and a deeper hue. God, it’ll be great(er).