Friday, March 02, 2007

Bordeaux Step 7: The Waiting Game

Patience is a virtue--or so they say. I've never been convinced. There is only one area of my life where I seem to be able to muster even a modicum of patience, and that's with my wine. I eagerly look for signs that the patience might spill into the rest of my life--when I'm driving, walking the dogs, waiting for the pot to boil--but there haven't been any so far.

When it comes to my wine, though, I can be so patient that people who know me would gasp with surprise. I am an almost obsessive user of one of Cellar Tracker's most brilliant features, the Drinkability Report. Eric LeVine figured out some ingenious, mathematical way to calculate when you should start drinking your cellared wine based on "drinking windows," how many bottles you have, and how a wine matures. He issues lots of disclaimers about the flaws of the program, but I've discovered that I'm happy drinking any of my wines that have passed over the .50 mark in the Drinkability Report, and .30 will do in a pinch! Patience, and delayed gratification, have become a kind of game for me, especially with respect to my Bordeaux.

So what's a person to do while waiting for their Bordeaux to enter into its drinkability window? Lots of things, actually. Because you have to have some patience if you're going to drink Bordeaux wines, its always a good idea to have some Bordeaux activities to while away the months and years that don't involve a glass and a corkscrew.

Here's a few ways I twiddle my thumbs:

1. Track which of your wines are entering and leaving "the dumb period." Eric Asimov of The Pour wrote a great piece about this phenomenon. Wines made for aging, like Bordeaux, can open up and close down with little warning as they age and when they are closed and tight it is known as the "Dumb Period" because the wine is not speaking to its drinker. Not all wines go through a dumb period, but Bordeaux usually do. Tasting a dumb wine can lead you to believe you have a "bad wine" on your hands. On the contrary--if your wine is shut down it is kind of resting and gathering its forces for a taste explosion a little later on. If you have multiple bottles, you can track where your wines are by keeping good tasting notes and indicating whether a wine seems muted, tight, or lacking in complexity. If you don't want to find yourself drinking a Dumb wine, you can track the experiences of other drinkers on a site like CellarTracker. Here's a good example of how folks there talk about the phenomenon.

2. Seek out earlier vintages of wine you've recently bought and stashed in your cellar. Never underestimate the power of the web to help you find older bottlings. I drink and buy Ch. Cantermerle and Ch. Poujeaux pretty regularly, and would like at some point to be able to do a vertical tasting, stacking up 5 vintages next to each other to see how they differ and how they age. Thanks to search engines like Google, WineZap, and WineSearcher, I can periodically plug in my wine coordinates and see if anyone has a few bottles of 1986 Cantemerle for sale. Older cru bourgeois bottlings can represent especially good value, and of course you might want to pick up a few bottles since they are typically aged and ready to drink. (so much for patience!)

3. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunistic Bordeaux purchases. Buying futures is one thing, but tripping across a nice bottle of Bordeaux in the wine store is awfully nice, too. I found a bottle of 2001 Ch. Potensac for $18.95 at Chronicle Wine Cellar last fall, a 2003 Chateau Poujeaux at Trader Joe's for $19.99, and a splurgey bottle of 2003 Chateau Clerc Milon at Costco for $41.99 (which was still pretty near half what it was selling for elsewhere). Remember to keep your storage limitations in mind and make sure you are tracking what boxes are due to arrive in the not to distant future so you don't find yourself storing clothes and shoes on the living room couch to make room for the Bordeaux you just "happened upon" at Costco.

4. Surf. Try typing the name of your wines into an internet surf engine and just see what the internet has to offer in terms of information and perspective on your wine. You are likely to find chateaux web sites, commentary on vertical tastings like this one from the Wine Lover's Page, and barrel sampling reports. If my fingers get itchy to taste my Bordeaux, sometimes I can hold off for a little bit simply by virtually travelling or tasting, instead.

5. Read, read, read. Become as knowledgeable as you can be about Bordeaux wines. You can learn a huge amount from reading while you are tasting, and Art and Betsey over at Strat's Place has a great list of Bordeaux-related books on their web site (plus if you order through Amazon on their site it helps to support their efforts).

6. Taste, taste, taste. Instead of drinking your Bordeaux, drink somebody else's. Look for Bordeaux tasting events in your area on the Wine Events Calendar. For not much money, you can often taste some really terrific wines, both younger Bordeaux and older Bordeaux. No matter where you live, there is bound to be some kind of Bordeaux event in the upcoming months--not to mention this weekend. On March 2, in Okemos, MI, Dusty's is having a California-France tasting that includes Bordeaux, for just $20, for example. On March 3, in Miami, FL, Sunset Corners Fine Wine and Spirits is having a FREE tasting of Bordeaux from the 2003 vintage. (wish I could go to that one--13 wines!)

Many thanks to all of you who have followed this series of posts, and left comments and feedback. I'm looking forward to posting my own tasting notes in the near future as I begin to open up the first bottles I've cellared myself. Have fun with your beginning steps into the world of Bordeaux--I know I am.


Joe said...

Well, if my blog wasn't down you would see that I enjoyed nice 2000 Bordeaux yesterday. Thanks for the tip on the drinkability report - I will give it a try. With a cellar full of 2000-2003s (plus some 2005s next year), I have to be opportunistic. Cheers!

Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Joe. I'll head over and take a look to see if your site it up. Better start drinking those 2000s to make room for the 04s!

Joe said...

I'm back up now. I actually can't remember if I bought any '04s? I will have to check the paperwork - if I did, it was to fill out a vertical.