Here’s the secret, it’s 2019, and you want to purchase a Cabernet Sauvignon that’s been aging since 2012, in the Finger Lakes it’s going to cost you around $50 if not more. However, if you bought that Cabernet Sauvignon in 2014 when it was first released, you might have only paid $20 for it.
That’s why, when you have a great bottle of wine that tastes a little young (think green notes, like how bananas have that tart taste to them), you should consider buying a couple, putting them in your basement (or other cool dark area), and aging them yourself for a few years.
Sure, it’s going to take safe-control not to drink it. And yes, you run the risk that you’ll open it in four years and it will have gone bad or be past its prime. But you also have the opportunity to have some crazy delicious older wine at a lower price!
What is a Vertical?
Wineries like Billsboro Winery are doing a great job of showing that local wines do age well by letting you taste through their cellar. These tastings are called verticals. Why? Because you get to taste through one wine over different years. It shows you how their wine has aged over time and how different years are progressing- which is key, because not every vintage is the same and because of that they’ll age differently.
Now, if you’ve been stocking up on their wine and have these years in your basement, its a great way to find out if they are ready to drink! If not, at events like this you can usually purchase older wine from the cellar (though you’ll be paying a premium for it).
Tasting Through 3 Years of Dry Barrel-Fermented Riesling and Cabernet Franc
This vertical tasting by Billsboro Winery offered the opportunity to try two different wines over three vintages. For each, winemaker Vinny Aliperti talked us through the differences in the weather and harvest that made that vintage unique, learned about its characteristics like pH and alcohol, and how it was produced.
We started off the night with their Dry Barrel-Fermented Rieslings. In general, Rieslings tend to age well, transforming from bright citrus notes to richer honey and apricot ones. Personally, I tend to like my Rieslings young because I appreciate those citrusy notes more, but these older barrel-fermented Rieslings were surprisingly divine.
- 2014 Dry Barrel-Fermented Riesling: a warmer summer led to it having juicy notes of apricot and nectarine, with hints of smoke, lime peel and vanilla. On the palate its brighter with a medium bodied honey, tangerine and lime curd, and an acidic pop at the end. This was the group’s favorite of the night.
- 2015 Dry Barrel-Fermented Riesling: in this one the oak is more apparent, leading the nose with toast and vanilla, then transitioning to fresh lime, cut grass and tangerine, that continues on the palate with a fresh zingy and citrusy acidity. This was my personal favorite- loved that zesty freshness that almost reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc.
- 2016 Dry Barrel-Fermented Riesling: this one leads with mushroom and smoke, followed by green apple and lemon notes. Similar to 2015, it has a lighter body, but a bright lime acidity that lingers.
Next, we tried three years of their Cabernet Franc, a wine that has a lot of bright red fruit and sometimes sharp green pepper notes when it’s young, but can turn to rich, dark fruit, smoke and black pepper notes when aged.
- 2012 Cabernet Franc: this one started with a nose of jammy cherry and raspberry, with loads of earth, stone and mushroom. The earthiness was balanced out by a cherry acidity and lovely chewy tannin.
- 2013 Cabernet Franc: in this the nose was more tart raspberry and blackberry, with smoke and a hint of bubblegum that reminded me of a Tempranillo (like the pink powder on the outside of classic bubblegum). These flavors continued on the palate with an almost creamy richness and silky tannin. This was definitely one of the most interesting of the night, and a fan favorite.
- 2014 Cabernet Franc: my personal favorite was this one with its bold nose of black pepper and smoke, followed by tart cherry and raspberry, with those hints of green pepper that come from younger Cab Francs. It had a super chewy tannin and bright cherry finish. I tend to like my Cab Francs ‘green’ tasting, so this was my personal love, even thought the 2012 was richer tasting.
What’s fascinating about this, was that there tended to be a group preference for the older varietals, not the youngest one, showing that aging wines in the Finger Lakes leads to amazing outcomes! Of course, as you see from my notes, you may actually like the notes of a younger wine, in which case its good to drink quickly rather than laying it down.
Remember- wine doesn’t get better necessarily, it just changes- sometimes you’ll like it more, sometimes less, sometimes it’s just different.
Check out your favorite local wineries to see when they are offering verticals! If you’re not convinced about the power of aging wine, attending one of these events will definitely change your mind. Also, there’s something rewarding about aging wine yourself, caring for a bottle over a number of years, having the patience and willpower not to open it, and then reaping the benefits. It’s like raising a child. Well, kind of. A delicious child that you’ll drink. Maybe ignore that last metaphor.