John Saker: Wines offer greater reward with a little cellar time
Wine keeps, but who keeps wine? Not many of us actually, a fact I've bemoaned before in this column.
Australia has the edge on us in that regard. Across the ditch there's a more active cellaring culture than exists here. And in Europe, drinking a wine too young is regarded as comparable to biting into an unripe apple. It's simply not ready, so why would you go near it?
That's mostly what drinking old wine is about – taste. You'll have a better taste experience if you wait to let it mature.
Which begs the question – how important to us is taste? We like to think we've moved on from talking about a meal as "a feed", ie, as something to fill a hole and little else. In regard to wine, are we still stuck seeing it as a means of getting hammered?
The point I want to make is this: we're missing out by not cellaring wine. How can we be nudged away from the buy-and-swallow ethos that currently rules?
Villa Maria boss Sir George Fistonich – arguably the most hands-on winery CEO in the nation – has taken on the role of nudger-in-chief. Fistonich enjoys his wine with a little bottle age. Being in a position to hold back more than a few choice bottles, he has done so.
The result is what Villa calls its Library Release programme, which gives you and me the opportunity to buy wine that has been well-cellared for several years.
"It's been a little ad hoc… we're making it up as we go along," Villa's group chief winemaker Nick Picone told me.
"So we've started with Hawke's Bay Bordeaux blends and chardonnays, which are the obvious candidates. Later on, who knows? We could see a syrah or a Marlborough pinot. It is vintage-dependent – only the best will make the cut. The over-riding goal is to help people discover what older wine is all about."
The first three Library Release wines are all Bay clarets – a 2009 cabernet sauvignon, a 2009 cabernet sauvignon merlot and a 2010 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon (see note). All carry the familiar Villa Reserve black label livery, designated "Library Release". All also carry a $70 price tag (older wine from top vintages never come cheap).
I've tasted them all. If you gave birth to a 2010 baby I'd advise you to buy that one – I reckon it will still be rocking for the 21st.
Villa Maria Reserve Library Release Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $70: 2010 was the year of chunky fruit across most red varieties. The fruit density in this blend is still something to behold, a solid core of spiced plum with truffle and juniper-y overtones. The tannins are settled and velvety.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2016 $18: Not a Library Release but this great value citrus and stonefruit-infused chardonnay has the stuffing to reward a little cellaring. Put it away for 7-10 years.