Monday, May 08, 2006

How do you tell if a wine is too old?

The truth is, you don't, until you open the bottle. A recent Beaujolais tasting proved again how difficult it is to predict how wine age.

Some time ago, I helped a friend of mine make an inventory of his wine collection and upload it into my Wine Cellar Management website. I noticed that his collection included some aging Beaujolais bottles and urged him to drink them soon. He then explained to me that these were leftover bottles from a Beaujolais Nouveau party that he had organized in 2001 and that he had simply forgotten them.

More recently, I asked him again about his Beaujolais. “You see, I am not really a Beaujolais fan and so I still haven't drunk them.” he replied. And then he added, “Maybe I should just dump them down the drain”

“Let's try them instead.” I told him. “Maybe we'll be surprised!”

So the other day, he brought a 2000 Beaujolais Louis Jadot, a 2001 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine Piron, and a 2001 Beaujolais Nouveau Domaine Ruet. To tell you the truth, we were not expecting much from the last two, especially the one simply labeled Beaujolais Nouveau, the lowest appellation in the Beaujolais hierarchy.

A Beaujolais Nouveau is a light, fruity, uncomplicated wine, and is not made for aging. After a short vinification process that takes only two weeks, the wine is traditionally released the third Thursday of November following the harvest. The wine should be drunk right upon release or within the next few months.

On the other hand, the 2000 Beaujolais Louis Jadot looked more promising. A Beaujolais is aged at least a month longer than a Beaujolais Nouveau and is slightly more age worthy. Moreover, 2000 was a great year in Beaujolais.

We started pouring the wines. They all had a bright red color showing no obvious signs of age. But the first one had a corky nose and unfortunately, this was the Louis Jadot. The second one had a sweet nose of strawberry and a fermented fruit juice taste typical of Beaujolais Nouveau. This was the Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine Piron. The last one was the wine we preferred by far and unexpectedly, this was the Beaujais Nouveau Domaine Ruet. The nose was fruity with banana aromas and the palate had a pleasant structure and earthiness.

The fact that these Beaujolais Nouveaux had not turn into vinegar after all these years really surprised me. The Domaine Ruet was actually very drinkable. We even finished the bottle that evening. There is no doubt that these bottles had been kept in optimal storage conditions, which is great news for the other bottles still slowly maturing in my friend's wine cabinet!

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Robert Massarella said...

What a great story! I would have never guessed that the Beaujais Nouveau would still be drinkable.

Catherine Granger said...

Amazing, isn't it? And thanks for your blog!

Anonymous said...

how about one that was from 1961?

Catherine Granger said...

Unfortunately, never had a wine from 1961!