Why We Don’t Drink More Aged Wine

aged wineTom Wark extols the virtues of well-aged wines but laments the fact that most wine drinkers prefer young wines to aged beauties.

Give me leather, smoke, caramel and muted fruit over bright acid-driven wines on any occasion. Give me the complexity and balance and layered nuance of well aged California Cabernet over the juicy, blackberry and blueberry and cassis bombs of young California wine always. I’ll take it.

I couldn’t agree more. Wines that contain sufficient fruit, tannin and acidity to protect their flavors from oxidation, undergo chemical processes that produce gorgeous aromas and textures and a sense of unity, of various parts coming together, that young wines simply cannot achieve. Yet over 95% of the wines purchased in the U.S. every year are consumed within a week. Why?

Tom goes through a number of hypotheses finally settling on one that I think is implausible:

Maybe it’s because so very few taste makers and trend setters actually have much experience with these wines. I suspect it’s a combination of this latter reality along with the style of older wines being so foreign to them that they don’t know how to wrap their brains around them, let alone tout their desirability, or at least their potential trendiness.

I don’t know many wine writers or somms who lack experience with aged wines. We are a curious bunch after all and the lore of great wines of the past is enough to stoke the interest of even the most dedicated fruit bomb fan. Furthermore, discovering the beauty of aged wines is part of any wine education program. I don’t think the problem is uninformed somms.

So why are aged wines seldom pushed as a hot new thing? The answer I think is rather mundane.

For obvious reasons wineries want to sell their latest stock and the whole PR, marketing, distribution, and sales side of the business is devoted to pushing it out the door. “Tastemakers” and “trendsetters” are on the receiving end of that onslaught. It is hard to resist the momentum of the whole industry that we depend on in order to promote an interest in aged wines.

Furthermore, aged wines are just more difficult to acquire if you don’t have your own wine cellar. Someone has to store the wine in a temperature-controlled environment which increases costs and limits the number of outlets willing to take on that burden. You have to go out of your way to find those outlets and ordering from an auction site is often the only source. But consumers, even dedicated wine lovers, are far too interested in convenience to make that part of our routine.

The whole idea of putting something aside for years to wait for it to develop or going to a bit of trouble and added expense to seek out venerable old bottles just violates too many contemporary character norms to ever gain a foothold. Quick and convenient always seems to trump patience and travail, even when the award is exquisite.

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