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Drinking the Best at Their Worst

Wine cellarNever have the great wines of the world been more clearly identified. Same for great vintages. Magazines, newsletters, web sites and blogs provide us with up-to-the-second reports on great bottles not to be missed. Big scores create feeding frenzies that clear store shelves nationwide. Now that we know who the best-of-the-best are, what do we do with them? We drink them as fast as we can.

More and more we are drinking the best at their worst. Consuming them at the very moment they are overwhelmed by full-blown young fruit power. What all this means is that consumers are learning that a great young wine, it all its majestic simplicity, is what great wine tastes like. This is truly a waste of some potentially great wine.

Robert Parker comments on drinking wines too young  in the current New York Times article by Eric Asimov, “It's like walking into a maternity ward and looking at all the newborn kids, and other than the different colors, they all look alike."

Very, very true. With modern vineyard and cellar techniques, wines are more intensely fruity than they used to be when first released. This fruitiness, while charming, is simple stuff to what many of these wines will offer with a little bottle age. Perhaps everyone should stop blaming Mr. Parker for big, simple fruity wines and blame their own impatience and unwillingness to cellar a wine in the rush to taste whatever is hot and new in the press.

Recently I purchased two wines with a few years of bottle age on them from The Wine Expo in Santa Monica. The depth of complexity these wines offered from just a few years of bottle age was stunning. No amount of breathing or magnets can replace this time in the bottle. If you are going to seriously collect great wines, access to proper storage conditions are essential to enjoying these expensive and rare bottles at their finest.