« It should be possible to drink a great Burgundy when it is still young and to keep it for decades as well," said Henry JAYER, great winemaker from Burgundy, best known and respected for the GRAND CRU wines he made in RICHEBOURG, amongst others. And his saying is certainly true for many other terroirs and appellations.
But it doesn’t suit for all wines. There are wines that are made to be tasted when they are young. Being fruity, fresh and tasty, they are not « strong » enough to last and to evolve. When aging, they they simply fade away, just disappearing in the bottle. It would be a shame to wait untils it happens. You better appreciate them for what they are: young, enthusiastic, generous ... Excellent companions for festive moments and simple, everyday cuisine: pasta with all kinds of sauces, grilled meat and fish, bread and pâté, fried potatoes… depending on their character and flavor of course.
For wines with a high potential for aging, the question may be more difficult. Last not lease because our expectations are huge! Our fears as well. How not to miss the "best time not to drink the wine », how not to open it too early or too late? This is the moment you should refer to the so called « THE JAYER RULE »: a great wine (that we define as being COMPLEX, with great BALANCED and a very good LENGTH on the palate) must be pleasant to drink when young, keep for years and ripen well (we reserve DECADES to VERY GREAT WINES and VERY PATIENT people). If you apply this rule, you will never drink too young or too old! This is reassuring, danger has been banned!
MORE SERIOUSLY: a good wine must already taste good in his youth. This is primordial. Burning alcohol, dry tannins, green and biting acidity or a lack of balance... Time will NEVER rectify these problems. NEVER! A wine that’s worth keeping will already show a good “drinkability” in its youth. Nevertheless, some red wines marked by a great mass of tannins may sometimes require a little patience, because time knows how to smoothen and reduce the ardor of (good) tannins.
THEN WHY WAIT? Because you can! It’s as simple as that. But also because over the years the expression of wines may travel towards unknown regions of taste, balance and odor. So finally it’s only curiosity and the pleasure of discovery that pushes us to be patience.
SO HOW DO I KNOW if a wine is made for keeping? This is one of major issues tantalizing all wine lovers and professionals. Concerning WHITE WINES we do not have much of a clue. Like we do not really know why ROSÉ WINES do not seem to keep very long (at least most of them), even if their composition is very close to that of white wines (except the color). Regarding the RED WINES we can make up an idea by tasting them: the power and abundance of flavors, as well as a remarkable tannic structure appear to be good indicators for wines with a certain aging potential. But for all t have said, of course, the exceptions confirm the rules (assuming they exist): white wines that keep for decades, rosé wines that taste great after 5 years, powerful red wines you would better have opened when they were young ... So let’s stay vigilant.
SO, WHAT SHOULD I DO? Maintain a relationship of trust with your winemaker or your favorite RETAILER. Primarily because it’s mostly through EXPERIENCE that we can predict if a CRU, a VINTAGE or a CUVÉE will age well or not. Of course you may also give it a try by yourself: Purchase several bottles of the same wine and vintage (no, you do not need a large budget for that, there are excellent wines between 8 € and 15 € that will age for 10 years!) and keep them at an appropriate place. Open a bottle every year, taste, enjoy and take some notes. You may experience the evolution, the improvement and the decline of the wine by yourself.