Saturday, March 24, 2018

JORDAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON: Bottles vs. Magnum Showdown!

To age, or not to age, that is the question. Well, that's not Hamlet's question, but many wine lovers do wonder if and how long they should age their wines. It is common knowledge among Wineaux that well-crafted red wines with a lot of structure are "bred" to age, like first-growth Bordeaux, fine Barolos, and so on. But it can be a guessing game; age a wine too long, and it will, sadly, "die." 


Nerd alert: Australian wine scientist T.C. Somers pronounces that "The rate of aging in red wine is determined by the rate of polymerization of polyphenol content." Yawn, but that's the truth! Polyphenols are basically your tannins and aromatic groups, which over time get oxidized. (Like an apple sitting out on the counter turns brown and shrivels.) The tannic structure softens while the wine ages, as polyphenols combine over time. These combined particles eventually get so long that they drop out of the liquid and become sediment. (So THAT'S where that comes from!) Also, acidity is super important -- it is the catapult for aging and flavor development. A good amount of acidity will help age a wine better than without it.

Making a wine to age requires foresight and a deft hand, for as wine guru AndrĂ© Tchelistcheff said, "Balanced wines always age better than wines out of balance," because if you have an overly tannic wine, when the tannins finally resolve, the fruit is -- poof -- gone. 

There are other important winemaking decisions that influence how a wine is aged, namely: harvest decisions, vinificaion options (fining, filtering, etc.,) use (and type) of oak, and so on. A winemaker has to think about potential aging at every step of the process. Ironically, most Americans buy wines for immediate consumption, within 24- to 48-hours of purchase. But thankfully, there is still a market for wines with age. 

I advise clients who want to purchase wines for cellaring to buy at least six bottles. Look at the projected arc of the wine's life, and taste a bottle every few years to enjoy its journey. You will discover the boldness of infancy, the cohesion of maturity, and experience the development of tertiary characteristics as it blooms late in life. You can also mix things up by introducing magnums into the equation; theoretically, the bigger the bottle, the slower the aging process of the wine inside. But what really happens over time in the different formats?

Rob Davis, the winemaker at Jordan in Alexander Valley, CA, recently led a tasting of four different vintages, both presented in bottle and magnum. (And he was the first to point out that there was no one "correct" preference, stressing "Whatever you taste, whatever you like -- YOU are always right." Thanks, Rob!)

So I have starred my "winners" from each pair, where applicable, because I am always right, haha. We started with the young'uns of the group, the 2012s ("One of the best -- best -- years we've seen in three decades," said Rob.)

*2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 750ml
Med+ ruby. Floral perfume. Cherry liqueur. Omg. Bright, luscious, clean, elegant red fruits, charming acidity. Super-subtle tannins. Juicy! Warm finish. ~$50 WM:94

2012 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
Med + ruby. Bit of smoke, leaves, cherries. Still juicy but not as flirtatious. Stronger tannic presence. ~NA $WM:93

In that match-up, I preferred the wine in 750, but the majority of tasters preferred the magnum. Rob was moved to say he kind of wishes they would only bottle in mags. :) 

Next up, the 2007 and 2002 vintages:

2007 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 750ml
Med + ruby. Silky, spicy nose. Lite mesquite, black raspberry. Super silky-smooth, integrated acidity, soft tannins. Elegant, rich. ~$130 WM:92

*2007 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
Med + ruby. Perfume, perfume, perfume. More tannic structure than 750. I want to drink the 750 now, but have the mag with food haha. Blackberry compote on finish. Pine needles. ~$290 WM:93

2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 750ml
Med + ruby-garnet. Potpourri, dried leaves. Light cherry/raspberry. Tannic! Starting to have those wet leaves notes but under fruit, for sure. ~$120 WM:92

*2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
Med + ruby. Cigar leaf liqueur, cherry, smoke, little green pepper. More fruit, definitely. Love this. Smooth, elegant, like me -- getting a bit older, but still a fun gal :) ~$270 WM:92

1997 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 750ml
Med + garnet. Toast, smoke, cedar chips, black pepper, oregano. Delicate, feel the heat, integrated tannins, still has a freshness though aromatics are secondary. ~$NA WM:95

*1997 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5ml
Med + garnet. Cherry liqueur, brick dust. Port-like. OMG delish. Good fruit! Smooth, rich, elegant, but has a lot of presence. Anise. WOWZERS! Gorgeous balance. Great cherry, smooth, so wonderful. $NA WM:97

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As you can see, I typically preferred the older wines from magnums, possibly because the larger format has protected the fruit more during aging. But all of these wines show great acidity, lift, and elegance -- they are definitely not wimpy, but not bruisers. Which, to me, is a sign of great winemaking. 

Perhaps the biggest "tell" in terms of the Bottle vs. Magnum Showdown is the 1997; while the wine from the bottle format is still kicking, the magnum's offering is positively shining. At over 20 years old, to be able to have that experience is the only argument for bottling -- and aging -- in magnums anyone should need.