To join in the fun of Open That Bottle Night I decided to open a wine special to me- a 1986 California Cabernet Sauvignon (this was the year I graduated High School).
Since I am often asked, “Are old wines better?” AND I had a younger Napa Cab downstairs in the “cellar”- I opened them both.
2006 Atlas Peak (L) / 1986 Beringer (R)
About Older wines… Approximately 95% of wines are made to be consumed within 1 year of their release (when they are first on shelves).
As a general guide, the wines that usually reward aging are the robust reds – the better Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhones from France, their counterparts (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah) from the New World; sturdy Italian reds like Brunello and Barolo; and the rich, strong dessert wines like Port, Sauternes and the fine late-harvest Rieslings from Germany.
On to the wines…
As you can see from the corks above there is a big difference in the color of the wines. Whites wines get darker as they age but red wines actually get lighter and less saturated (less colorful) as they age.
The 2006 Atlas Peak in the glass, was purple and opaque but the 1986 Beringer was more transparent and brick orange-red in color.
Tasting the wines proved they tasted as different as they appeared.
Atlas Peak 2006 is still a young wine and has some noticeable tannin that will soften as it ages. It had VERY ripe flavors of dark fruit (blackberry, currant), almost jammy, with noticeable OAK.
Made from Cabernet Sauvignon from different Napa Valley mountain vineyards it is a great wine for the price (around $25).
The 1986 Beringer, Knights Valley was much more subtle and restrained. As wine ages in barrel, the tannins, imparted from the grape skins and stems, become less apparent. The flavors of this wine were less ripe fruit, but still darker fruits, like currant and black cherry, with some earth and iron. Although this wine still had some life left it was nowhere near as fruit forward as the Atlas Peak.
So which is better?
Kinda like comparing your niece and your grandmother. One is youthful, carefree and full of life, the other has experience/wisdom and has “mellowed” a bit with life and age.
But you love them both.