While I certainly have a hearty appreciation for many wines, my first love in this arena has always been Cabernet Sauvignon. I love its rich and smooth texture with hints of dark fruit, smoke and leather. One of the great things about this varietal (and others too) is that it continues to evolve in the bottle and over time, some Cabs become even better. It is pretty well-known that high-end Cabernet Sauvignon from regions like Bordeaux and Napa Valley will benefit from additional time in the cellar, but what about the lower priced Cabs from less prestigious regions? Do they evolve too? I am sure they will change but will they improve? When my wonderful husband built the wine cellar in our house about five years ago, I had this exciting but very naive plan to buy loads of inexpensive wines, park them in the cellar for an unknown amount of time, and then viola! They would all become fabulous wines that would drink like wines triple or quadruple the price I paid. While experience since those days has warned me not to get my hopes up, I still remain cautiously optimistic that some of them will turn into better wines than they were at purchase.
But many of those wines still have years to go until its time to validate my experiment and impatient people like me often go crazy waiting for answers. Last night, I got lucky and may learn something in the near term after all. My sister and brother-in-law, whom we see often, are primarily white wine drinkers. Occasionally people give them wine as a gift, and those full-bodied cabs sit on their wine rack aging away. I was perusing their stash and came upon two aged cabs that could shed light on my question. Both are from lesser known areas; an 02 from Chile (up and coming Cab region) and a 98 from Oregon (not a big Cab region in my experience). According to CellarTracker, both wines are around the $15 range, indicating that these are value wines.
Have they have aged well and evolved into silky and luxurious wines with smooth tannins?
Wine #1: 1999 Foris Fly-Over Red, Rogue Valley, Oregon.
The nose after pop and pour was not alluring at all. An earthy, mossy funk that dissipated some but not completely. Optimism in this venture decreased at this point. First taste has a sweetness that is not normal fruitiness in a bordeaux blend (53% cab, 27% merlot, 20% cab franc). I think this wine might be corked as this moldy smell won’t go away. Two sips and I am ready to move on. A half hour later, still smells like a dank basement that suffered flooding and never dried out.
Wine #2: 2002 Morande Reserve Cabernet, Maipo Valley, Chile.
Initial nose much more promising; woody, earthy and enticing. Smooth and silky tannins after first taste. I can tell there was oak used but it does not come across as too much. Over time, the nose evolves into a leather and dirt set of flavors, and in my book, those are good. This wine is nice, however, I can’t say if it is better than it was years ago. The finish is a little flat but it pairs nicely with Manchego cheese and Soppressata. As the wine continues to open up, I like it more and more.
Conclusions? It seems like aging wines of this caliber is a crap shoot, pardon my french. One of the wines is drinking very nicely 10 years later. The other was corked, however, it may have been corked for a long time. I will continue to play the aging mid priced wine game but will have to remind myself that for every wine that ages gracefully, there will likely be others that do not. I guess it would not be wise to dabble in this if you are not prepared for some failure. Didn’t someone wise say with something along the lines of “without risk there cannot be reward”?