As someone whose years are mounting up, I find there’s little time to waste. Carpe diem is never more front of mind. Seizing my cheekiness, I asked Winemag editor, Christian Eedes whether I may join their panel for the annual 10-year-old review, to which he kindly agreed. Last Tuesday, Christian, Wine Cellar CEO, James Pietersen, Roland Peens and myself sat down to taste through the 65 diverse 2012s entered.
It’s an important category; as our wines improve, so they should also stand the test of time. As I’m in the fortunate position of having a cellar with a controlled temperature, I have no fear of keeping wine for several years, most for around eight to ten years, some longer. If that is typical for me, I wondered how relevant this tasting could be for others; in a Twitter poll, I asked how often people drink ten-year-old wines: regularly, once or twice a year or never. Answers from the 120 respondents confirmed this type of tasting certainly could be of relevance; for 108 (almost equally divided), drinking ten year old wines is either a regular or once or twice a year occurrence; only 12 said they never drink these older wines.
What are those 108 (and others) likely to make of 2012s now? If those 65 entries are not going to paint a complete picture, numbers were compensated by a spread of varieties and styles. As results are being announced only next week, specifics will have to wait but, more generally, bubblies, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, blends, both white and red, individual Bordeaux varieties, pinot, pinotage, sweet and fortified were in the line-up.
Generally the wines were in good shape, the caveat being that an unacceptable number of second bottles (11) were required due to TCA (cork) problems; none of us could remember so many in a tasting in a long time. Otherwise, as we have come to expect, the wines had aged rather than matured.
Something I hadn’t anticipated was to find in a few wines a trend we’re increasingly aware of today; freshness, less extraction, lighter texture and less obvious oak. It struck me and, having mentioned it to Christian, him too that 2012 could be regarded as a transitional vintage, tentative at this stage, but gathering momentum down the next ten years.
As a vintage, 2012 had been preceded by a dry, cold winter, followed by a cool, fairly wet spring, suggesting a later harvest, but heat spikes in January and February hastened ripening. Cool nights ensured good freshness, purity of flavour and fully ripe fruit at lower sugar levels. At the time, aromatic whites and shiraz looked the quality players.
Generalities are fine, specifics are better and, as with most of the wine world, the clever route is to follow the producer. As the results next week will hopefully show.
When he said I was welcome to join the tasting, Christian asked if I had any 2012 that I’d like to bring along. Of the list I gave him, he suggested Kanonkop Paul Sauer, which was duly inserted among the Bordeaux varieties and blends. I was delighted to subsequently learn I gave it my highest score of the tasting (94); my colleagues were, sadly, less impressed. It is still amazingly youthful and has the balance to age for many more years.
Isn’t it strange how we value age in wines yet youth in people? One reason for my cheeky request to join Winemag’s 10-year-tasting was to introduce some age to the panel, still in their 40s or early 50s. If it is true young people are influenced by their youthful peers, why shouldn’t older folks look to experienced people of their age for guidance. There’s been much debate around ageism recently, what people should or should not do when they reach a certain age that was perfectly fine when they were younger. Perhaps it’s different with wine tasting. Fortunately, I have no loss of smell or taste, which is said to happen around 70 and as Platter still employs me (I’m not the oldest taster!) my ability must be up to scratch. But I believe the positives of age need to be kept in mind as much with people as with wine.