Pleasures of (moderately) aged wine

Recently, thanks to my wine-loving friends, I had opportunities to drink several moderately aged wines:
  • a 2000 Burgundy from Corton (Grand Cru), paired with beef bourguignon
  • a 1998 Rioja, paired with Spanish tapas
  • a 1995 Burgundy from Pommard (1er Cru), paired with short-ribs and suckling pig dishes from Manresa.
As my palate has been evolving quite rapidly away from big fruit and more toward complex non-fruity flavors, I found myself enjoying these moderately aged wines tremendously. Obviously, these must have been well-structured well-made wines to last even 10 years. But drinking them 8-13 years after the harvest reveals velvety smoothness and slight oxidation that makes these middle-aged wines sophisticated and intellectual. Due to age, they no longer boast huge tannins, sharp acidity, or juicy fruit -- they have no sharp edges, but those structural elements are still there just less aggressive and more polished, in harmony, accompanying delicious (non-vegetarian) meals with confidence and grace a youthful prodigy could never have. These wines caress your palate and evolve throughout the meal, delivering fruit in one sip and earthy vegetables in another. They make you wonder - what's going on with this wine - what is that flavor? I too one day hope to attain the level of maturity worthy of these wines.

Now, I have to say that I have also tried some wines from the 80's and 90's at a recent Ross Bott tasting in Palo Alto (mainly California Cabs and Zins) that are completely over-the-hill and are drinkable only out of scientific curiosity. So one has to know which ones are ageable and which aren't - but for experiencing the pleasures of (moderately) aged wine, particularly for pairing with food, it's certainly hard to go wrong with a high-end (Grand or Premier Cru) Burgundy, which is probably my most enjoyable wine at the moment, besides a Kabinett German Riesling.


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