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On Tasting
After All This Time - Now They Tell Us
Tuesday, 13th June, 2006  - David Farmer

Wolf Blass - genius of wine marketing

In the April 2006 U.K. wine magazine Decanter the editor Amy Wislocki had the following to say: "Steven Spurrier tells me that he's beginning to think that ageing is a myth-apart from very tannic wines, wines don't need extended ageing, and winemakers often overstate the length a time a wine will take to come around. Opening a wine to discover it is too young is frustrating but, I would argue, not as frustrating as finding it's over the hill, when all the pleasure is lost."

For those not aware Stephen Spurrier has been in the wine business a very long time and has been a contributor to Decanter for a number of decades. His thoughts about ageing highlight a shift that has been underway for many years.

The best red Bordeaux of great vintages from eons ago were very hard and tough when young and took a decade or much longer to be pleasant drinking. In a good cellar they would keep and improve for a great number of years.

Wines are being made in a different way to thirty years ago. The red grapes are picked when they are much riper and softer and have less green tannin while whites are less acidic with more rounded fruit characters. This is best illustrated by them being tasty when still young.

It is one of the curious features of examining the results of vertical tastings that while older wines from a few great vintages will be highly pointed, as the wines get younger point scores become higher. On average this means that experienced tasters prefer the taste of younger wines.

The average consumer has no liking at all for older wines. Fresher fruit flavours are more appealing and winemakers have responded. The genius of this in the Australian market was Wolf Blass and the criticism at the time was that his wines would not age. In fact the better ones have but it hardly matters as only a few consumers have cellars. Wine advisors though still refer to the cellaring potential of wines thinking they are pre-war English wine merchants.

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