August 31, 2023. – As Wine & more writes, in the world of wines, a realm of sophistication and allure lies hidden within the depths of old vintage wine treasures. These enigmatic wines have journeyed through time, their essence evolving with each passing year.
Occasionally, the discovery of a forgotten wine bottle sparks a sense of serendipitous luck. However, the truth is, not all wines are crafted for the metamorphosis that comes with bottle aging. Even those deemed worthy require a precise environment to mature gracefully.
The ART of wine aging
Elegance knows no bounds when it comes to preserving the quality and value of old-vintage wines. The art of aging wine is a delicate ballet, a performance choreographed by environmental factors. Four pivotal pillars stand as sentinels to the sanctity of the aging process:
- Temperature: A symphony of flavors demands a temperature range of 50°F to 59°F (10°C to 15°C). The dance falters in the face of temperature fluctuations, urging the need for unwavering constancy. Extremes of heat or cold impose premature aging, a withering of potential.
- Humidity: In the realm of humidity, a delicate balance reigns. Levels of 60% to 70% shield corks from desiccation, sparing wines from oxidation’s curse. Yet, an excess of moisture poses the threat of label decay and the haunting presence of mold.
- Darkness: Light, a silent adversary, casts shadows over the aging ritual. To preserve the sanctity of wine, shelter it from the malevolent embrace of sunlight and UV rays. Dimly lit chambers emerge as the perfect refuge.
- Stability: A tranquil haven shuns disruption. Wines embrace stillness, abhorring the ripples of vibration and movement. Sediments must rest undisturbed, corks left untampered. Abandon loudspeakers, heavy machinery, and washing machines—their tremors invite decay. In unity with stillness, horizontal repose safeguards corks from desiccation.
What is an Old Vintage Wine?
In a nutshell, a vintage wine is made from grapes harvested in a specific year. The term “old vintage wine” does not have a strict definition based on the number of years, as it can vary depending on individual perspectives and the wine’s characteristics.
Generally, wines aged 10 to 20 years or much older are usually considered old vintage wines, but the ageing potential varies based on the grape variety, region, and winemaking style.
There is a distinction between the general ageing potential of wines and wines specifically produced and stored for long-term ageing in a winery cellar, often referred to as “old vintage” wines or “archive wines.”
When we discuss the ageing potential of wines, we refer to certain wines’ inherent ability to improve, evolve, and develop more complexity and depth over time. These are wines that have the capacity to age gracefully under proper storage conditions.
On the other hand, “old vintage” wines or “archive wines” are a specific subset of wines that wineries intentionally set aside and store in their cellars for extended periods.
These wines are often made from the best grapes of exceptional vintages and are carefully crafted to have the structure and balance necessary to withstand extended ageing.
Winemakers may designate these wines as special releases or reserve wines, and they are typically only made in limited quantities. Producing and storing “old vintage” or “archive” wines allows them to reach their peak maturity, offering unique and complex expressions of the grape variety, terroir, and winemaking style.
These wines are often intended for collectors, wine enthusiasts, or special occasions and are released when the winemaker deems them ready to be enjoyed at their best.
THE VARIETY AND TERROIR INFLUENCE
A grape variety whispers secrets of longevity. Varieties laden with tannins—Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Plavac Mali—stand poised for enduring evolution. Tannins wield the brush of preservation, affecting longevity of the wine.
High acidity wines—Riesling, Chardonnay—embrace age, aided by their inherent vigor. The cornerstone rests in the balance, where all elements unite in harmony.
Terroir, a master of influence, governs the wine’s genesis. Soils bestow minerals, sculpting nuances of flavor. Climate, merciful in its temperance, cultivates complexity.
Terroirs like Dingač and Postup on Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula—their names resound with prestige—usher forth red wines, grand and aged, crowned by Plavac Mali’s regal touch.
Old vintage Croatian wines
Old vintage wines are considerably rare. Finding a winery with resources and the ability to make and store wine for a significant time is a rarity.
Not all old wines are valuable or rare. The rarity and value of an old-vintage wine depend on the producer’s reputation, the specific vintage’s quality, the storage conditions, and the overall condition of the wine when it is finally made available for purchase.
For collectors and wine enthusiasts, finding and acquiring well-preserved old-vintage wines can be a rewarding and cherished experience, as these bottles often represent exceptional and unique expressions of a particular year and winemaking style.
Luckily, you don’t have to go to an auction to purchase old vintage wines. In fact, many individuals seek-out old-vintage wines for significant celebrations or events such as anniversaries, birthdays, or corporate milestones.
Old vintage wines could be purchased from wineries directly and through specialised wine shops with a selection of aged wines for customers looking for unique gifts, special occasion bottles, or to expand their wine knowledge and palate.
Old-vintage wines don’t have to be extremely expensive, either. For example, this archive bottle of Postup from 1994 or this Dingač could be purchased for a price no higher than some current vintage wines from that same positions (Dingač and Postup) are being sold.
Old, vintage Croatian wines are a perfect gift for wine enthusiasts and a true masterpiece that carries the legacy of the winemaking traditions and techniques employed during that particular vintage.
NOTE: The article was originally written at wineandmore.com