Not all wine can age forever. Most white wines should be enjoyed when they are young and fresh, or within about four years maximum. They lack the tannic structure for long cellar aging, though there are exceptions, especially with high acid whites. Red wines generally can age better, some up to twenty or more years. Robust tannins and structure make this possible, but think of some delicate red varietals like Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, and their aging range isn’t as long as some wines from Bordeaux or hearty, acidic Italian wines. Most wines will lose their vibrant fruit and seem a little lackluster in the mouth when the expiration date has been reached. I had a feeling this Sardinian Cabernet might be reaching the end of its bottle time. What better time to open a bottle of exotic Italian wine than before a trip to the country of origin?!
I was a little concerned about the sediment in a twelve-year old bottle of wine, but more wary of the decanting process destroying the fruit profile and flavor. The sommelier gently decanted the wine for us, and the first sip assured me that the wine’s fruit and integrity had definitely remained intact. And there was little sediment left in the bottle. When I bought this wine several years ago it was so striking in its originality. I had never experienced a Cabernet like this: bucket loads of black olives, wild Mediterranean herbs, black tar, and hints of sea air salinity. Now, some years later, still lots of black, inky fruit, but less black olive and more black cherry and currants.
Aromas of barnyard and Old World charm added interesting depth, as the fruit remains subdued and dark, almost shy and brooding in the glass. I love this style of wine–it sings to me with memories of spring ranching and calving season. Ample acidity make it a great food wine, but the tannins are mellow and balanced enough to soften the dark fruit. Oak aging rounds out any rough edges by adding elegant vanilla and clove spice. And the oak, too, creates supple velvet-like textures, so that the mouth-feeling lingers on and on. An hour into dinner and decanting, the salinity came through on waves of silky dark chocolate. The dark fruit evolved into brighter red cherry and raspberry. Never did the structure of the wine collapse. I think this bottle could be aged even a few more years longer. We had filet mignon and beef ribs for dinner. So full with indulgence, we had to leave the last glass for our server. This will be go on my list of my favorite wines of all time. (And I’ll be checking for newer vintage releases when I hit the wine markets of Italy!)