The SOMM Journal

February/March 2015

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20 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015 { one woman's view } by Karen MacNeil What if, one night a year, every restaurant in America with a decent wine list offered guests the opportunity to buy a bottle of old wine for half price? WHEN I WAS A YOUNGER WINE WRITER, I remember getting impatient when someone would ask whether a wine would age. Invariably the asker would be some- one who looked like they aged wine about as long as it took them to get it home from the store. It's a show-off, rhetorical question, I'd think to myself. Recently, though, I've come to understand a few key things about aging wine. The first is that the capacity for a wine to age is a sign of its greatness. So even if you never experience the wine when it is old, the mere fact that it could have withstood time, means a lot in terms of its quality no matter what age it is. The second insight is kind of sad. We've become a country where almost no one has ever tasted a magnificently aged wine. The exceptions of course are collectors who actually drink (rather than just trade) wine—one billionth of the population. What happens when so critical a part of wine's appeal fades away? When no one actually understands an aesthetic because the experience behind the aesthetic is gone? I found myself wondering this star ting on Christmas Day when I experienced what may have been the most amazing miracle of my recent life—a 1961 Château Lynch Bages. I was by myself that afternoon before going to visit friends. I poked around in my not-perfectly-organized cellar and found it lying there. I got out a corkscrew. Why not? Over the next four days I had a glass of the wine every night. No Cruvinet; no Coravin; no gas; no vacuuming. The bottle sat on the kitchen counter. But the Lynch Bages didn't fade. In fact, it got better . . . over four days, despite the fact that it was 53 years old. Of course, 1961 was a great year and the provenance was excellent. But still. I found myself wishing that everyone I knew could have tasted this sublime wine, and with that came the gloomy realization that for all of us, older wines have become more fantasy than fact. They exist, not as real possibilities in our lives, but as academic constructs. About a month ago, two other lucky chances came my way (both from the Napa Valley): the 1997 Spotteswoode Cabernet Sauvignon and a non-vintage Spring Mountain Winery Pinot Noir, made sometime in the early 1980s when the winery still made Pinot. Both wines were meltingly delicious. And that gave me an idea: Old Wine Night. What if, one night a year, every restau- rant in America with a decent wine list offered guests the opportunity to buy a bottle of old wine for half price? Maybe it's a silly idea. But losing the ability to experience one of the wonders of wine . . . that's unthinkable. If you like the idea of Old Wine Night and want more information about a national promotion co-sponsored by The SOMM Journal and Karen MacNeil & Company, contact The author describes this non-vintage Spring Mountain Pinot Noir— made sometime in the 1980s—as "meltingly delicious." Sometimes There's No Going Back . . . . Karen MacNeil is the author of the forthcoming The NEW Wine Bible, fall 2015. This 1961 Lynch Bages got better . . . over four days.

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