The way wines develop and evolve never ceases to amaze me. Some retain the freshness and brashness of youth for a long time, then they take a rather rapid turn towards maturity. Many white wines appear to behave this way. Other winess, more so in red to me gain their secondary and tertiary characters, and stay on that level for what may be an interminably long time (if you excuse the pun). There’s no set rule that I can ascertain, but I’m sure someone has a theory if not explanation.
A remarkable surprise was the 1995 Esk Valley ‘The Terraces’ Hawke’s Bay. Now 20 years plus and made from approximately equal portions of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc from a special hillside site behind the winery in the Bay View district. The varieties aren’t known for their longevity in comparison with Cabernet Sauvignon, and in fact, one notable Hawke’s Bay man calls Malbec a ‘weed’ which gives coarse wine. However 1995 was a particularly auspicious vintage, and SWMBO had bought some from the maker, as all the portents were right.
The occasion to open it and drink it was also right with the I-Spy Man and Jol-Vino in attendance. Looking black as black, and with only a little garnet, and no bricking, this looked youngish, but not old. The nose was also fresh and packed with bold, ripe black berried fruit aromas with a touch of refreshing curranty detail. Not unripe, not even cool, but definitely with some of the Cabernet family involved. Then plush, sweet and juicy on palate. Mouthfilling and overt, with density and depth, and soft, fine, supple tannins, and fine, gentle acidity. Playing the Wine Options game, it spoke of New Zealand rather than Australia and France, and easily recognisable as Bordeaux-varietal based rather than Burgundy or Rhone styled. One would have to go Hawke’s Bay, but vintage confounded everyone. Not 2010, but possibly 2005? When revealed it was 1995, there were a few gasps of incredulity. It was ‘Oh So Young’.
With time, the aged characters emerged. Only a little, mind you. And those more critical saw some funkiness. But nothing could detract from the remarkable youth.