Spare Me the Bottle Age When It Comes to Zinfandel
Virtually every week I peruse WineBid to see if there are any wines worth bidding on. It strikes me that when I browse through the Zinfandel category I see countless bottles of Zin that are 10 plus years of age. Often I will see bottles that are 15-20 years old. I think that more often than not these wines end up on WineBid because collectors are disappointed with the way their aged Zinfandel tastes.
This past week I opened a 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs out of magnum. The wine was interesting with flavors of black tea and aromas of bay leaves and wet forest floor. It was definitely drinkable and paired admirably with a grilled steak. What the wine lacked though was the juicy acidity and brambly fruit characteristics that I adore in Zinfandel. This was the oldest bottle of Zin in my cellar and I had aged it intentionally to see how it would develop.
I am a proponent of aging wine in the cellar if they improve or become more compelling with bottle age. Obvious examples for me would include Bordeaux and top tier Cabernets from Napa. They develop compelling secondary characteristics and the tannins are more in balance with the fruit profile. While my bottle of ’03 Ridge Lytton Springs clearly made it to 15 years of age I am certain it was not better than had I consumed if 5-7 years ago. I know many a wine consumer who won’t touch a bottle of Ridge Geyserville or Lytton Springs until it reaches 15 years of age. I’ll err on the side of drinking them sooner rather than later going forward.
With that being said a little bottle age can clearly benefit some Zins. A recent bottle of 2015 Ridge Pagani was just a little too over the top at this time and a year or two in the cellar should bring more balance to the wine.
I will not pass judgement on those of you who want to cellar your Zins. I plan to drink most of my single vineyard Zin from the likes of Carlisle, Turley and Ridge in the the 5-8 year window after release. Wines like Outpost and Black Sears that are sourced from Howell Mountain will also be consumed after 5-8 years. Entry level Zins like Turley Juvenile and Old Vines or Carlisle Sonoma County will be consumed 1-3 years after they are released. Unless I lose track of the bottle in my cellar I don’t intend to keep bottles of Zin past 10 years of age going forward.
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