It’s every hoarder’s dream to open a closet or an attic box and find some long-since-forgotten treasure. Every now and then, the news will have a story of some uncovered million-dollar baseball card or autographed first edition. In Europe, the story might level-up to a Monet. The car collector world calls these four-leaf clover moments a “Barn Find”. There’s no subtlety to why it’s called that. No, it’s not named after Theodopilus Barn, locator of the first Model T (I made that up)… for whatever reason, landed gentry with a prized but underused car often relegated their chariot to a barn or storage building somewhere on their property. Life being what it is, sometimes those secret stashes get found well down the road by someone else.
If you have enough wine around your place, you’re bound to find a forgotten bottle every now and then. It happens. Not judging. It happens to me no matter what cellar ap I use or the paper inventory I keep. Truth be told, it happens a lot. I kinda dig it actually.
I think it’s pretty cool to see how a wine ages. Time in a bottle does magic to wine. Sometimes it’s like evil magic, but the point is that it’s a totally different experience drinking a bottle upon release versus one ten years down the road. Before you throw a single bottle of barn find juice into your carry bag en route to your favorite BYOB haunt, it’s good to know what to expect and whether you ought to bring a backup.
Not all wine is meant to age. Some are. Frankly, some wine really needs to age. But most is engineered to be enjoyed within a few months to a few years after release. That makes sense, right.? It’s not like everyone can project their wine needs 24 months in advance. And even if you are that OCD, you’d have to have the space to store it properly.
Noble varietals from historic and noteworthy regions are good candidates for at least a little cellaring. New world value wines are all over the map. Take Pinot for example. Old world burgundy loves time in a bottle. New world Pinot that is truly done in a Burgundian style often emulates its French brother. But many California pinots are bright fruit-forward wines that taste amazing for their first five years of life but “may” fade. First growth Bordeaux and elite Napa cabs can sit on their side for decades. But second or third-run juice from the same regions, perhaps blended into a Meritage, typically doesn’t. That’s kinda the textbook answer.
The air quotes around fade are meant to be deferential to everyone because, well, everybody looks into this fishbowl differently. Because, shrug, until you take the first sip you never know. Let me tell you about tonight.
Digging for a bottle one-night last week, I uncovered, a bottle of 2007 The Sum, hiding out of sight on the back row of my cellar. The Sum is an affordable cab and syrah blend, mostly from Napa county grapes. At around $20 a pop, it’s priced to be a daily drinker. I’m sure when I bought the bottle some ten years ago, that was my original intention. Whatever, I popped the top and went for it. My Kosta Browne allocation is getting delivered tomorrow so if the bottle sucks, at least I’ve freed up cellar space.
Shocked. The color was a little more orange and less opaque. I cellared it properly and so no brown edges or raisiny smells. The wine was nicely in balance, smooth drinking, and whatever roughness that might have been there upon release had mellowed out. That’s what’s supposed to happen when a wine ages. The acids, tannins, and alcohol all become more elegant.
You can figure out a few things that worked to my favor with this bottle. The first thing is that it wasn’t exposed to heat or too much sun on the bottle. The other important thing is, and I don’t have a spec sheet on this bottle to know for sure, but I have to believe that this vintage was medium-plus acid and at least the same in tannins. Miss one of those, or both in some cases, and you’re probably going to end up with some earthy mushroom flavors that I personally don’t love. You might. Just not my thing
I’d love to tell you how the bottle did with a couple of hours of decanting, but it didn’t last through dinner. Good juice. Surprisingly good