Aging a bottle of wine is a bit like cheating death, and a bit like playing the lottery. It’s a game I love to indulge in, but even in the excitement there’s a moment of panic every time I take a corkscrew to an older bottle.
As a sommelier, I always want to take the utmost care with a bottle that someone might have been saving for a very special occasion. Unfortunately, sometimes you get a bottle that’s clearly been stored poorly. The cork is bone dry and even trying to open it results in nothing but crumbs and tears. Usually with some delicacy (and liberal use of coffee filters) I manage to decant the wine, but it’s still a process fraught with tension.
It’s almost as bad when I take wine out to restaurants with me, even though I know I’ve stored it properly. I recently took my mom out for her birthday, and opened a slightly older bottle of Washington wine. Fortunately it was in good shape, and our server did an excellent job of opening it, but there was still a moment of panic when I handed it over.
Yet that’s also the fun part! I know with a good deal of certainty what a 2012 or 2013 will taste like, but a 2007 is much more of a mystery. Will it be better? Will it be past its prime? Will the fruit still be present, or will it be all earthiness and leather? It’s that moment of discovery that makes cellaring wine so worthwhile.
The 2007 DeLille Cellars D2 I opened was excellent: still lively and full of lush black fruit, with a deeply enticing smokey chocolate nose, coupled with a lovely velvety mouthfeel and a degree of complexity that more recent vintages haven’t quite developed yet. Sure, there was some risk in holding on to that bottle for five or six years, but the payoff was well worth it!