Old Wines are rare beasts. As Sillynote has it, "drink now through teatime". Something like 95% of wine bought in this country is drunk the same day. Most wine, of course, is made for now & won't benefit from bottle age (although I find that some new world wines are better if given time to get over their initial tartaric-induced tartness). So there's a special gloss on an old bottle.
Tonight's shiny bauble was a Viña Tondonia Blanco 1987 (excellent). It was the colour of brass, but with beautiful glints of gold through it. The nose was strong - acrid - and very earthy, loads of mushroomy notes, as well as a novel scent for me, of caraway seeds.
It tasted very mellow, gentle, but still with a strong core of citrus acidity. It was lovely.
Interestingly, we had another white Rioja, Finca Allende 2005 (excellent), to compare with the Tondonia. The Allende was only three years old rather than twenty-one, and matured in French oak for rather less than the four years the Tondonia underwent. Yet the similarities were there to see.
By chance I happened across a small stash of Hegarty Chamans No3 2003. 2003 was their first vintage, made in an unfinished winery, which had to be sold as Vin de Table, presumably because they didn't manage to deal with the bureaucracy in time.
At the time I was very excited about Hegarty, because they use a fair whack of Carignan, making the sort of funky, herbaceous wine that really gets my goat floating, and I said I would try some at a later stage to see how it was evolving. Of course, being such good wine, it rapidly sold out, before I tucked some away. So unexpectedly finding three bottles was a treat. And it has evolved rather handsomely.
The jumping acidity and powerful herb stink have calmed down rather. The wine seems much darker, and the fruit flavours – bitter cherries, plums, that kind of thing – stand out more. Also, there is a mineral, stony flavour which wasn't evident three years ago. Very rich, with medium grained tannins, at five years old this Minervois is in fine fettle and truly excellent.
I'm not planning to save either of the two remaining bottles. They are the ideal winter warmer for this weekend's family gathering in Moffat. The only problem is, what else can I take that's going to be even half as tasty?