Trying old wines before they’re old

Wines growing older

Barrel tasting - St. Helena, CA

We think of wine as something that needs to age, although it’s estimated that 90 percent of wine is made to be drunk within a year. With a few exceptions, such as Nouveau wines, the most famous wines need a few years in the barrel. The wine changes with age, and the oak of the barrels secretes flavors into it. Red wines rich in acidity and tannins, and white wines with high acidity, are the most likely to benefit from this process.

Wine club barrel tasting

Barrel tasting is an opportunity to try the most recent vintages, try to figure out what will be worth the most and buy futures at a discount. Sometimes, many wineries in a wine-growing area schedule their barrel tastings to one weekend-long regional event. Many wine clubs also hold barrel tastings.

Barrel tastings vineyard near St. Helena

Tastings at Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. Try a recent Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. An older Estate Reserve Cab, 2007, was formed by a cold and dry early and middle year, with a sudden burst of heat around Labor Day that helped the grapes produce more sugars. The result was a dark ruby red wine with an aroma of dark chocolate, roses and cigar box. Its flavor is balanced between fruit, oak and acid, with sweet tannins and hints of cedar and coffee.


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