Not sure when to open that bottle you've been saving? When's best to drink your Port or Champagne? How does heat affect wine aging? See the queries from readers below and our industry experts' advice
Wine Queries: When to drink
Which vintage of Palmer?
If I want to treat myself to a bottle of Château Palmer – which I’ve never tasted – for my 60th birthday in August 2018, which vintage would you recommend I buy? Also, I have a bottle of Alter Ego 2008 under the stairs (stored under reasonably even temperature conditions) – when should I drink that? Andrew Palmer, Keynsham
Steven Spurrier, Decanter consultant editor, replies,: The best years of Château Palmer benefit from a long time in bottle – I’m told the 1961 is still superb – so whichever vintage you are able to treat yourself to, choose one that is well into its second decade by 2018.
A good choice would be 2001, overshadowed by the 2000 but considered by many to be as good if not better, and more classic. Then two good vintages from the mid-1990s: 1996 with elegant concentration, 1995 richer and more robust. Finally, given a choice between 1990 and 1989, wines almost half your age in 2018, Stephen Brook, in his The Complete Bordeaux, describes them thus: ‘1989 is a triumph: very opulent, truffley and fleshy aromas, while the palate is spicy, concentrated, fresh, elegant and impeccably balanced. The 1990 has less power than the 1989 but perhaps more finesse.’
Whichever vintage you choose, you should begin with your Alter Ego 2008, which will be delicious to drink and a perfect introduction to its older brother.
From the February 2015 issue of Decanter
A Quintarelli discovery?
I recently found a bottle of Quintarelli’s 2010 Amarone in a friend’s wine shop. I still can’t believe I spent that much on a single bottle but didn’t want to let the opportunity pass! When should I drink it? Paul, by email
Richard Baudains replies: I’m afraid that whatever you bought, it cannot be Quintarelli’s 2010 Amarone. The estate’s current Amarone vintage is 2004. The 2010 is still in barrel and will not be out until 2020 or 2021.
What you might have found is Quintarelli’s Primofiore 2010, an IGT blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon made from fresh grapes, as opposed to the dried ones used for Amarone. If this is what you do have, Primofiore is a wine made for drinking rather than keeping, and although it will not come to any harm if you put it aside for a few years, I suggest you have it next to a dish of Venetian-style liver and onions next time you feel like a treat.
From the December 2014 issue of Decanter
Are these still good to drink?
It is only since I retired that wine has become a hobby. I bought the following wines when I knew nothing; what can you tell about them – are they still okay, or should I ditch them? (They have been kept cool and in the dark):
• Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 1979
• Château Lynch-Bages 1980
• Château Peyrabon 1986
• Graham’s Vintage Port 1977
Nigel Bryant, by email
Stephen Brook replies: Lafaurie-Peyraguey makes great Sauternes today, though the 1970s was not its finest decade. But Sauternes can survive for many years and yield pleasant surprises, so pull the cork and hope for the best. I tasted both the 1980 Lynch-Bages and the 1986 Peyrabon when they were young and back then they were both light and dry, even though 1986, unlike 1980, was a good vintage. I suspect neither wine will give you much pleasure, but try them and see. But 1977 is a great Port year and Graham’s an outstanding producer, so this should be glorious and in its prime if, as you say, it has been stored well. Pull the cork, decant slowly, then enjoy. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
From the October 2014 issue of Decanter
Ageing Aussie Riesling
I love Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings with mature flavours but am nervous of keeping them too long… B Turner, Solihull
Michael Hill-Smith MW, DWWA Regional co-Chair for Australia, replies: Don’t worry, the best dry Rieslings from Eden Valley and Clare Valley can age magnificently. Along with Hunter Semillon, these wines are perhaps the longest lived, most individual and interesting Australian whites. The reason they age well is that they have relatively low pH, high acid and low phenolics as pressings are rarely included. Moreover they are bottled under screwcap, so assuming the wines are cellared well, bottle maturation is slow, even and controlled. An ideal drinking window of five to 10 years is common.
These wines develop an intriguing toasty, honeyed, tertiary character with bottle age. Not all Riesling has the capacity to age well – but wines such as Grosset’s Polish Hill, Pikes’ The Merle, Mt Horrocks’ Watervale, Kilikanoon’s Mort’s Block, Jim Barry’s The Florita, and Kerri Thompson’s KT are excellent cellaring candidates. For the impatient, mature Riesling is available already cellared by the producer – the standouts being Peter Lehmann’s Wigan and Pewsey Vale’s Contours. Both have done exceptionally well at the DWWA over the years.
From the January 2015 issue of Decanter
Decant or sell?
My boyfriend and I have five bottles of Château Juguet 1989. His parents bought them to mark his birth 25 years ago. Should we decant it or sell it? Susanne & Michel Zahnd, Switzerland
James Lawther MW replies: If the bottles you refer to come from Château Juguet in St-Emilion (St-Pey d’Armens) I would suggest you open them and try them now. This is not an area of St-Emilion with a reputation for long-ageing wines, and much will depend on how well the bottles have been stored. But 1989 was a great vintage in Bordeaux so you could be in for a pleasant surprise. Decanting, I would say, is unnecessary unless there is a deposit in the wine, in which case you could decant it just before serving. You have nothing to lose as there is no resale value in your wine. Fingers crossed, and don’t be surprised if there is variation from bottle to bottle. It’s often the way with older wines.
From the October 2014 issue of Decanter
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