I’ve written a lot recently of the benefits to be found in cellaring cheap wines for a few years. The key is to buy more wine than you can possibly drink, and have a cool dark place to store them. I didn’t come to this conclusion through any sort of brilliant cunning strategy; I came to it quite by accident. Or perhaps I inherited it honestly, through genetics.
I’m visiting my parents with my two sisters and their familes this week and some take-out barbecue was on the menu last night. I ask my father if a good Zin of a Malbec was going to be opened to accompany this feast. He replies “a Sauvignon Blanc”… My father’s chief complaint in his eighties is that the vast majority of his lifelong friends have either died, or lost their minds to dementia and/of Alzheimer’s disease. Age has had an impact on him as well, mostly manifested in limited mobility and a veritable pharmacopeia of a daily routine… but this drift into white wines may be a sign that his normal state of super-sharp mental acuity may be starting to lose its edge.
He says that I can head to the crawl space in the cellar and find something more to my liking. My ten year old nephew eagerly volunteers to join me and I gladly accept his offer in that my aging knees are happy to sit outside the tiny crawl space while the boy goes spelunking for wines on my behalf. He goes in and grabs the first bottle he sees and emerges saying “this one looks good!” I agree, as it is a 1966 Chateau Trotanoy Pomerol(!) and my nephew’s father, who is walking by at the time chuckles and agrees with me that he should put this one back and go for another. I direct him from outside the crawlspace to a bottle near the bottom of the rack with a newer, more domestic appearing foil. This bottle was the result. Kenwood is a great old Sonoma vintner, famous for producing some great stuff. This morning in my father’s library I found a Wine Price Guide from 1993, and it lists this bottle as trading for $4.69. You can’t get much cheaper than that!
That it is a 1990 is interesting, as that day was my niece’s 26th birthday, and my oldest son was also born in 1990 and that year had been the subject of discussion earlier in the evening. So I open this 26 year old bottle of cheap wine and…
It’s not very good. Mind you, it isn’t bad, but it is clearly long past its prime. It is a blend of Zinfandel and Gamay. The Zin seems to have completely aged away, leaving zero backbone and an odd mix of raisin and slight Gamay flavor. Of those two grapes I would have imagined the Gamay to be long gone and the Zin to be left holding it up, but oddly the opposite is what you have after twenty-six years in the cellar. Just too much time at rest. Couldn’t stand up to the BBQ ribs we had for dinner.
It didn’t stop me from polishing off most of the bottle with a little help from my one of my sisters.