Wine Talk

Snooth User: kylewolf

Air Time

Posted by kylewolf, Oct 12, 2009.

Hello everyone,

I have a 1994 Monticello Gran Reserve Rioja that I am looking to crack open soon. And since it is one of the older wines if not the oldest I have had to date, I was curious as to what everyone would consider the optimal air time in the decanter would be. Thank you.
btw, I couldn't find this wine in the search engine, but here is a pic of the bottle


Reply by neale1, Oct 12, 2009.

i would say get a decanter (you can get one for $10-$15) and let it sit for atleast 45 mins to an hour - this is a tempranillo made in the bordeaux style ... can we come over :)

Reply by kylewolf, Oct 12, 2009.

This one is for a special occasion, however, I am getting 3 1995 Conde de Valdemar Gran Reservas, so we can see what happens with that :)

Reply by GregT, Oct 12, 2009.

It's a gran reserva from a very great year. And if you get the 1995 that was also a very good year. So you'll have two of the three great years in Rioja until 2001 and 2004. The wine should be starting to display mature qualities at this point and should be good for years into the future. But it's not a really old wine, it's sort of midway between young and old right now, and in a good drinking window.

I don't want to get into a debate about decanting, but if you don't know the wine and if you don't know the style, why decant at all?

I drink a fair bit of wine from Rioja and a fair bit of that age, and I actually never decant them. It will develop in your glass and I assume you won't be slamming it down in some kind of a speed race, so let it open for a minute or so and learn what happens with the wine as it aerates. The only way to really learn that stuff is by experiencing it yourself, and you won't harm the wine. If it's not quite what you want, then open something else until this one is ready.


Reply by kylewolf, Oct 12, 2009.

Thanks greg,

That is how I normally approach my wines, but I wasn't sure if with something like this if I should change that up.

Also Greg, are you hinting I should stock up on some 2001s and 2004s for long term cellaring ;)

Reply by dmcker, Oct 13, 2009.

Am in total agreement with GregT on the lack of need for a decanter with this wine. I have three or four nice crystal decanters that I've received as gifts over the years, and the older ones got a fair amount of use when I was first starting to learn about wine. They almost never come out of the cupboard these days...

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 13, 2009.

One point worth mentioning, in regards specifically to older wines, is the difference between decanting for clarity and for oxygenation.

I drink a fair amount of old wine. I almost always double decant these wines.

By that I mean i decant the wine into a clean decanter to remove the sediment in the bottle, then return the wine to the bottle once the debris has been rinsed from it.

Too many wines get compromised by sediment. It changes the texture of the wine, and muddies the flavors. So while I am with GregT for the most part I still do suggest decanting for older wines.

Rioja can throw some sediment but the traditional ones see so much time in wood that they frequently drop much of their dry solids during the aging process and are less prone to developing significant sediment in the bottle.

Reply by kylewolf, Oct 13, 2009.

GregT, you hinted that my 94' and 95' wines should be good for more cellaring, how long would you say the 95' conde de valdemar gran reserva could stay? If it is a significant amount of time I may convince myself to seal away a few more bottles.

Reply by GregT, Oct 14, 2009.

For context - Greg DP drinks wines that are older than half of the people posting on this board!

Actually I agree with him. The thing about most of the Rioja wines that bear the Reserva or Gran Reserva label is that they have usually spent a fair bit of time aging in large barrels or tanks. So while the minimum is 2 years of barrel aging for a GR, usually they do more than that. And as part of the aging, they may be racked a few times. So you tend to have less sediment with those wines than you might with something else.

But yeah, as a rule, if you have an older wine you don't know, I'd also advise storing it upright for a few hours or even a day or so before opening. Shaking up all the sediment is rarely a help.

All that said, the definition of "old" depends on the wine itself. Some grapes seem to have a faster aging curve than others, and the winemaker also has a lot to do with it. For a wine like a Beaujolais, even a cru, a wine with fifteen years on it is pretty mature. For something like a major Barolo, ask Greg but those from the mid 90s that I've had are still really young and not nearly as good as they'll be. For classic Tempranillo, meaning made in the crianza/reserva/GR style, it's a little different. The idea is that the winery releases them when they're ready to drink. If you elect to keep them beyond that on your own, that's fine. But they don't need more aging when they come to the market. (Unlike Bordeaux, where the wineries force you to age the wine yourself.)

Thus, in your case, from experience, I think that the bottle funk will blow off in a couple of minutes after you pour it in the glass and it will be ready to go. But just in case, stand it up for a while and pour carefully.

As far as stocking up - if you want to get some, it's hard to beat the 2001 and 2004 vintages as a general rule. Some producers didn't do well as always, but I put my own money on those. And 2005 too, although when I recently tasted a number of the 2005s vs 2004s, they were not nearly as enjoyable. 2004 is a richer more approachable vintage. The 2005s are sometimes tighter and more acidic seeming. Don't know if that's the "official' word, but it's been the case on numerous occasions. So I think both would be excellent to cellar, although the 2005 actually needs it whereas the 2004 is a little like the 1995 - good now or whenever.

I have some friends who call the 94, 95, 96 vintages the "golden trio". What I can tell you is that from some producers, 1981 or 1982 or 1989 are just excellent today and I have no reason to think that the mid 90s wines won't be just as good or long-lasting. And for some producers, the wines from the 1970s are great too.

I have some at home from 1968 and 1973 and they're just fine - mature and should be finished sometime soon. Oldest Valdemar I've had was only 20 years though, so I can't say a lot about that other than point out the year, grape, and style. They're not necessarily the first rank producer, but in good vintages are just fine. It was one of the first wines I used to buy years ago.

Reply by kylewolf, Oct 14, 2009.

Thank you so much for all the information. While I have learned a lot, there is volumes more I need to learn.

You said Valdemar is not a first rank producer, who would you consider some of the top classic tempranillo or Red Rioja style producers? As of now i am finding myself craving these wines so they may be something I might look into stocking up and cellaring. I also am looking into getting some nicer Malbecs and see how they age...see if they settle down a bit.

Thank you again for everyone's help

Reply by dmcker, Oct 14, 2009.

GregDP, am not sure (nor in agreement) on the need for decanting, much less double decanting for well aged bottles. Are you trying that much harder to cut out any hint of sediment? Can you always get all the debris out of the bottle? How much liquid do you end up losing? Or are you merely talking about a 15 yr. old Barolo?

I tend to not decant anything these days. Not even ancient vintage ports. I just leave them standing for two to three days before opening, and am careful during that and the pouring processes not to shake the bottle around. I view decanting, even when done meticulously, as a means of inducing bottleshock, which I don't want for my oldest bottles (though rapid artificial aging of a 2005 is another subject). I do like the sight of a mature wine in a Baccarat captain's decanter, yet I also like the sensation of pouring from a bottle with history, so I just get by with my views of the wine in glass. And I have enough experience by now to know when I'll be entering sediment territory, and thus when to stop the pour.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 15, 2009.

I would say that the typical bottle I decant is about 20 years old. I drink a lot of wine from the 80's and earlier. I am losing about 1-2 ounces of wine and remove virtually all of the sediment.

I bring a lot of these bottles to restaurants but even if i enjoy it at home I will end up loosing, or at least compromising, more than those 2 ounces simply be virtue of having the sediment disturbed during pouring.

I very rarely find a wine that is being hurt by decanting. Pour slowly and carefully, take your time, and virtually every bottle I've enjoyed over the past several years has improved after double decanting.

Old Barolo in particular can benefit from hours of slow oxygenation.

We each have out own preferences, none is wrong, simply better or worse for the individual.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 15, 2009.

Certainly understand if you're bringing bottles to restaurants, I assume fairly shortly before drinking. I try to get bottles to restaurants or friends' homes I'll be drinking them at several days ahead of time, and have them stored standing and untouched until we drink them. When that's not possible is one of the situations where I do sometimes decant these days...

Reply by dmcker, Oct 15, 2009.

And perhaps old barolos are different animals from old clarets (with old Californians the wildcard in the mix) and Rhones and burgundies. I have far too little experience with older nebbiolos, I'm sorry to say...

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 16, 2009.

I wish I could help you fix that, perhaps someday.

They behave very differently than most old wines.

Reply by GregT, Oct 16, 2009.

kylewolf - there are many very good Rioja producers and it seems like there are more each day. There is a kind of breakdown between the "traditional" and the "modern" and that is something that some people make a big deal over but I happen to think most of those people are full of crap, so there you are. The 90s saw an explosion of wineries. But you asked for "classic", so the venerable producers like CVNE, (Compania Vinícola del Norte de España) who have been around since the 1800s, are still producing excellent wine. Their Imperial or Viña Real are both fine wines for aging. Like many older bodegas, they used to buy the grapes from the locals. They started an estate winery called Contino and those wines are also wonderful. Muga is another you could look for. They have a newer wine, called Torre Muga, an intermediate called Prado Enea, and the traditional line.

One rule of thumb is to see what the wines are called. If they use the name crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva, they are often done in the "traditional" style because that has specific aging requirements. However, a number of wineries don't want to follow those rules and they can't use those terms. So you'll see something like Vendimia Seleccionada, or Antiguos Viñedos, or Joven or something outside of that C-R-GR classification system.

La Rioja Alta, Remelluri, Beronia, Señorio de San Vicente, and most of all Lopez de Heredia are some others you can look for. Miguel Merino, a friend of mine, makes a wine that seems to age beautifully but has only been in business since 1994 so we can's say for certain. Heras Cordon is another.

Some that are in the next category, but can sometimes produce stunning values, would include Marqués de Riscal, Marqués de Murrieta - Ygay Gran Reserva & Reserva Especial - they've been uneven but seem back on track, Martinez Bujanda who makes the Conde de Valdemar, and Bodegas Bilbainas.

But don't over look the "modern " guys. Remember, they' aren't putting out their wines after long aging, so you should compare apples to apples and compare them with the traditional guys from the same vintage. Also, many wineries do a "traditional" and a new, like Muga for example with the GR and the Torre Muga.

A good example of this is the Eguren family. Besides Señorío de San Vicente, they also have Viñedos de Páganos, Sierra Cantabria, and bodegas in Toro and elsewhere in Spain. Alvaro Palacios is famous for Priorat, but his families winery was in Rioja and they also are making lusher wines but nonetheless wines that should age. Bodegas Roda, one of my favorites is another. Finca Allende, a very uneven producer, puts out the Calvario that may be an excellent wine down the road but is burdened by the mixed reputation of the winery. Ramirez de Ganuza merits attention. However, these will be more costly as a rule - they're put into barrique, not old wood, the fruit is more rigorously selected, and production is typically lower than the old line bodegas.

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