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When I’m Sixty Four

beatles_newsweek_cover_1964 In 1964 the Beatles released Meet the Beatles in the United States, the first Ford Mustang was produced,  Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater for President and the grapes for the 1964 Gran Reserva Rioja of Faustino I were harvested. They made 219,500 bottles and I drank one last night. I can’t help but be struck by history when I taste older wines.  By the way, I just turned nine a month before they picked these grapes, which means I’m becoming part of history too.

To experience these wines is to touch a piece of history as no one makes wines in the same way anymore. Too much science has entered both the winery and vineyard and that’s a good thing. The great thing about an old Rioja Grand Reserva is that they were only produced from the best vintages and from the best wines, which means that you won’t find the faults you often see in older wines from lesser years and pedigrees.  A wine like this lets you reach out to winemakers of the past and be touched by the way they thought.

The 64 Faustino Gran Reserva shows not a trace of cassis, raspberries, new oak or alcohol.  Part of that is its age, but I’m willing to bet it never showed any of those things. Years in barrels (old) and bottle before release assured there was no baby fat on this wine when it was deemed ready for sale. The winery did the maturing for you.

The most striking thing about such wines are the aromatics. It is almost (almost) anti-climatic to taste them. The other is the finish, which is long and haunting. They are wines that invite you to think. Think about not only the way they taste and smell, but about the people and times in which they were born.

There is no such thing as great young wine.  Very good, very enjoyable ones yes, but great ones no. Young wines only have the potential to be great. Drinking young wine all the time deadens the palate making it only sensitive to power and fruit. In today’s hedonistic market driven by immediate pleasures most of the greatest wines are consumed before they actually become great. It’s a terrible waste as today’s wines could be the best ever made and, in addition, never have there been so many wonderful wines designed to be drunk young. More often then not, these “lesser” wines are more pleasurable to drink in their youth than more distinguished and pricy bottles.

For every wine there is a season, connoisseurs should be able to pick the proper season to drink wines made to age. Now we give potentially great, age-worthy (age-necessary) wines points at birth and that defines them forever. It is more important how a Bordeaux or Barolo tastes at two than how it tastes at twelve. That is obviously half-ass backwards. There are wonderful wines for drinking young and grand wines that don’t achieve their regal stature for years.  Trying to make those wines ready to drink upon release denies their true potential. It is silly to think that a wine can become instantly profound. Like the people that make them, few wines become become complex as adolescents.

It would be depressing to think you achieved your intellectual peak at thirteen. Why do the same thing to the world’s finest wines.

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