Unless you’re one of those people who drink every bottle of wine they buy within 24 hours, the chances are that you’ve got a few older bottles knocking around somewhere at home that need to be drunk up. And this cash-strapped time of year isn’t a bad time to work through them.
The problem is that once they get to a certain age, the question arises whether they will be drinkable at all. You hesitate to bring them out for friends, yet feel they’re too good for everyday drinking.
Don’t be afraid of cracking them open. Beyond a certain point, most wines simply don’t improve with age – and that includes sherry. My husband is always reluctant to drink up the last couple of bottles in a case on the basis that it would mean we will never again get to drink that wine. As a result, we now have a collection of venerable bottles that are totally past it.
Admittedly, it’s all a bit of a gamble. Older bottles may be a fascinating surprise or a total disappointment, so you need to have some kind of backup. Not everyone will enjoy the funky, farmyardy flavours of a mature syrah or burgundy as much as you do, or for that matter the whiff of kerosene that you get from an old riesling.
You also need to think slightly harder about the food you’re going to serve with them. The older a wine gets, the more delicate it tends to be, and so the simpler the food you need to show it off. Roast lamb is always a good bet for an old red, whereas by the same token a strong cheese isn’t. Smoked fish will be better for that riesling than spicy food, which needs a brighter, sharper focus.
And if you have run out of stocks, or are looking for a younger, fresher wine by way of contrast, there are still some good post-Christmas bargains around as the shops clear their shelves for new vintages. And not just in the supermarkets, either. Two merchants who have good deals at the moment are Great Western Wine of Bath – try its fragrant Santa Ana Torrontes 2010 (13% abv), down to £5 from £7.30, with a zesty ceviche – and the virtuous Wine Society, which has ploughed back some of its profits to cut its margins and reduced the price of 300 lines in the process. Its Zarcillo Gewürztraminer 2011 and Zarcillo Pinot Noir 2010, from Chile’s Bio Bio Valley, both 13.5% abv, offer excellent value at £6.25, while the Domaine Laborie Vin De Pays d’Oc 2010 (£5.25; 12.5% abv), a gutsy blend of grenache, carignan and syrah, is a real cracker.
Photographs: Full Stop Photography
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