The old Question
is famous for the delicious richness of its fruit, and this
aspect is never stronger than when a wine is young. And, if
the occasion calls for the brightness of youth, this is when
the wine should be drunk. But there is more, much more.
of the question of aging Zinfandel has to do with the perception
of the taster. Lacking famous antecedents in Europe, expectations
for Zinfandel are often different and less. How can this New
World baby possibly approach the sophistication of the best
of Europe? Flavors and nuances of mature wine for some people
are thus only associated with the classics of the Old World,
be they Burgundies or Barolos. At our house, however, if let
us say a Cabernet is aging well, we compliment it as tasting
like a mature Zinfandel.
factors which allow some wines to add the sensual qualities
of maturity to the best attributes of youth are primarily three:
balance, first and foremost, of fruit, tannins and acids; intensity,
rather than either weight or high alcohol; and structure, the
backbone or core around which a wine may develop. All aspects
of a wine are modified by bottle age. The color change is brought
on by the polymerization of phenols, principally anthocyanins.
Polymerization of other tannins and acids also occur, most notably
seen as tartrate deposits. The varietally based aromas of wine
are augmented by the bouquet of aging, in part because of the
increase in esters from the interaction of acids and alcohol,
and in part because of the enhancement of aroma as the wine
achieves oxidative stabilization.
is the result? For the best wines - retention, complexity and
integration. The varietal character and basic fruit core of
the wine is retained, the berry and spice that make Zinfandel
Zinfandel. Around this core develop additional flavors and bouquet
- sandalwood, nutmeg, cardamom with small admixtures of minerals
and vanilla. No aspect of the wine dominates, but all components
are seamlessly integrated, with the core of the wine providing
the focus for this increased complexity. Perfume, silk and seduction!