SOMMELIER AND MANAGER OF LUTYENS RESTAURANT
BY the time you read this, my first child should have been born. As one does I have been contemplating what sort of wine to lay down for his 18th birthday. It’s a little early to judge the 2011 vintage; the grapes have either just been picked or are still on the vine. Nevertheless I thought it would be timely to consider the kind of wines I will be looking at.
An obvious option is fortified wine. 18 years is nothing to a vintage port (although it’s not made every year). The high alcohol content and sweetness preserve the wine and, provided the port is stored carefully, it can keep going for half a century or more as it increases in complexity and interest. The initial blast of intense fruit will give way to something more savoury and spicy.
Barolo and Barbaresco from Piemonte in Northern Italy have a combination of high acidity and strong tannins that give them the capacity to age gracefully too. In the best years and from the greatest producers a decade will pass before they will even be ready to drink and will reward patient cellaring with a complex and intoxicating bouquet. Think truffles, balsamic spices and flowers.
The classic sweet Rieslings from Germany’s Mosel have the combination of lush sweetness and thrilling acidity to last the necessary couple of decades as well. The ageing process will make them seem drier, and they can be surprisingly food friendly. Look for Auslese, Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese on the label – these correspond to increasing levels of sweetness. Generally, the sweeter the wine, the greater the ageing potential.
To age your wine at home, keep your bottle in the dark, in the cool and away from big fluctuations in temperature or strong smells. Also keep away from the kitchen and the boiler. And if you are really contemplating keeping them for 18 years, it’s worth consulting a specialist on how to store them properly for you.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @LutyensWine