To Cellar or Not
A month ago, I was in the company of a very decent retiree who wanted to purchase 100 litres of wine to bottle for his own consumption. Everything, but everything depended on the financial calculations. It terrified him. If you ever pondered on whether it was viable to start your own cellar – whether your abode be a flatlet, a suburban manor or a palatial estate – finance does not need to affect the logistics. You might have to persuade your better half that the third bedroom is perfect, or you would need to cut through the floor next to the grand piano. Not every abode comes with a built-in cellar, but a dark space of even temperature can be found. I have known friends who placed boxes of wine under a bed or low down in a wardrobe rather than store the wine in the garage.
Try to expose yourself to tasting older vintage wines. They are there, though tough to find. Hempies du Toit (ex-Alto) of Annandale has his 2004 as current release. 34 Degrees South in Knysna has sold hundreds of older wines. At trade shows and at select wineries – if you are lucky – you can taste older vintages. Johan Malan of Simonsig holds a monthly event tasting back 20 years.
Perhaps you are in the position that you cannot procure older wines and just have to take the printed word as Gospel. So here is the Gospel.
A young red wine will have at least 4 spikes – “F”,”A”,”T”,“A”. The “F” for Fruit because a grape is a berry. A particular wine could give you a berry taste, but ask yourself is it a light berry (strawberry), a medium berry (raspberry, mulberry) or an intense berry (blueberry or blackberry). Some reds are more plummy or even meaty. You will be able to nose and taste that “F” for fruit.
The first “A” will be for Acid that comes from the grape and complexifies after fermentation. The acid wets your palate and helps with digestion of food.
The “T” stands for tannin from the skins of the grape or from the oak barrel. These dry your palate so that after each successive morsel of food, you take in some wine that dries the mouth so that the next morsel is as enjoyable as the first. The other “A” is for alcohol – the product of fermentation. It enables you to relax and enjoy yourself.
Now a mature red wine would see these spikes – the fruit, the acid, the alcohol;, the tannins – merge into each other so that no one spike sticks out. Rather you will sensate on those hallmarks of culture – Balance and Harmony. We look for Balance and Harmony in music renditions, in art paintings. You can find it in wine – if you buy now, lay the wine down and enjoy when the secondary and tertiary features evolve in the bottle.
If you love this little romantic expose, then you have only one intention – to start your own cellar! You will not be stressed. You will succeed. One day you will laugh about your early efforts. You will be able to pull out a 30 year old and enjoy the Harmony and the Balance – and be proud of all the knowledge that you gleaned simply because you started.
Peter Bishop (“PeeBee”) is a disciple of the great and late BeeJay Lankwarden, who introduced him to tasting 40 years ago in the Garden Route. He has written for the Wynboer (early 1990’s) and currently for CXPress in Plettenberg Bay. He has conducted hundreds of private tastings and considers the best taster to be ‘the novice’ – as the better days lie ahead.