Does age matter?

I never thought about it too much until I tasted it.

There are so many ways to take that sentence and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Let’s see…

Onions were never on my food list. I grew up having very little to do with them unless we were served onions and liver for supper. Onions and liver — not my favorite meal but you ate what was put in front of you or you had to make your own meal. Never thought too much about doing that. After all, I had a mother and three older sisters to do the kitchen stuff — never thought about it.

Dressing for one’s salad? Salads weren’t a normal part of our cuisine, and salad dressing certainly wasn’t on my mind. One time and as a treat to us, my older sister took our family to a restaurant and the waitress asked if I wanted Ranch or French dressing on my salad. My brain froze. What was I being asked and what was the difference and do I really want anything on my green salad? I negatively shook my head and was left to my greens. Once again, never thought about salad dressing — why would I?

Upon graduating from college, two of my fellow graduating classmates and I went to a bar and ordered cocktails. I knew nothing about cocktails but had heard about this one called a screwdriver. I ordered it and was amazed to have a glass of orange juice set in front of me. Of course, it just wasn’t orange juice and I learned that very quickly.

However, by that graduation day, I knew onions were delicious when properly cooked and had learned the difference between French and Ranch salad dressing — both in color and taste! And since I was then of legal drinking age, my knowledge of the ingredients in a screwdriver was indelibly etched in my mind. Aging brings revelations, surprises and wisdom.

Then, wine came into my world.

When I first became interested in wine, I found revelations, surprises and wisdom because the taste of a wine depends on a wide variety of elements — from the soil, to the amount of sun, to the amount of cool breezes and to the knowledge and passion of the vintner. Along the way, I found that the age of a grape vine is extremely important to the finished product.

Some of the revelations I discovered were about the type of grapes being used, what grapes blended well and which ones didn’t blend well, the importance of the natural world on bottled wine and the importance of the name of a wine.

The surprises amounted to the wide spectrum of tastes that wine gave to me. One can taste anything from leather to soil, from berries to cheese, from chocolate to cassis, from vanilla to fruit and so much more. Every bottle of wine is a surprise waiting to be experienced.

Finally, there is wisdom. It’s the wisdom that comes with age and, wines, not surprisingly, depend greatly on the age of their vines. Young vines haven’t established deep roots and therefore, will show some quickness of acidity in their tastes and not a lot of complexity. But, old vines are special.

Many vineyards in this country are less than 30 years old and make outstanding wines. In Europe, many vines are around 200 years old. When you enter that aged realm, you enter the worlds of tradition and history. That’s when it gets interesting.

As vines age, they produce fewer grapes because so much of the roots energy has to go into the gnarled and twisted vines. However, the grapes they do produce are filled with complex ageless wisdom — meaning aroma, body and taste.

I enjoy an old vine Zinfandel wine and there are a number of precious and extremely tasty old vine Zins on the market. Bogle Old Vine Zin is easy to get and easy to drink. Think about some soft spices buttressed by a hardy blackberry taste. It’s delish and the wine comes from vines over 40 years old.

Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zin is outstanding. It has a medium red color and looks terrific as you pour a glass of it. Again, there’s the spice one expects but, the wine is so gentle and then surprises you with a bit of chocolate at the finish. Those over 30 years old vines are revealing wonderful tastes to you. Another fine Lodi old vine wine is Cline Old Vine Zinfandel that comes from vines over 75 years old. It’s remarkable with its depth and freshness of taste.

A really nice old vine wine from Spain is Bodegas Volver Tarima Hill Old Vines Monastrell. It has a deep garnet color and tastes of red cherries and, yes, leather. It’s very complex and hardy and shows the age of the near 50-year-old vines.

As I age, I hope my being exhibits the revelations, surprises and wisdom that the world’s old grape vines do in their wines. If that wish is fulfilled, I will more easily accept my youthful ignorance of delicious onions, sumptuous salad dressings and very cool cocktails.

Next week, I’ll see what happens in NYC.

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!

Cheers!

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