Why is it that some people become super-agers? In their late 80s or well into their 90s, they remain physically and mentally robust, they engage with what’s going on around them, are sociable, care about others, are alive to current events and trends. Their memories are still quite good. Perhaps they play chess or bridge, they swim a few lengths daily, manage uphill walks or continue to play golf.
The medical fraternity keeps on researching what it is that gives super-agers the edge on other, often much younger people. So far, it seems the phenomenon is a combination of luck, good genes, healthy lifestyle habits (eating well, exercising), environment (including a network of relationships, enough stimulation to stay curious and keep on learning, which is where memory comes in), plus a great attitude.
Can we say the same for wine?
I know a lot of mature people and many mature wines, and I’d like to think there are definite parallels.
Back in the day, choice of vineyard site and the climatic factors leading up to the vintage could well have been down to luck. (Not in modern times, of course, when vines are sited very carefully to give of their best, and viticultural practices are applied to respond more rapidly to the impact of vintage conditions.) The type of grape, say, Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, would be about genes. Here we’d be looking at clone, berry skin thickness, likely berry size, potential pH levels (you’d want high acidity) and phenols (the chemical compounds that affect the taste, colour, and texture).
Healthy lifestyle would involve how the grapes were grown and nurtured, including vine pruning, canopy management and harvesting. Environment would be covered by terroir, the cellar team, and its winemaking philosophy. Attitude would encompass wine styling, including length of exposure to oak and the type of oak barrels and whether the wine was made with the intention of long-term maturation.
We’re very proud of the wines chosen for extended, optimal ageing at our Vinoteque cellars.
To us, they are super-agers.
You will know that as red wines age, their tannins soften while still imparting structure and a degree of freshness. Brightness of colour starts to fade as the wines lose pigment, while still retaining some vibrancy. Acidity becomes less pronounced. New aromas and flavours emerge. Primary fruit notes, while still evident, combine with more layered and often more complex characters. Berry and plum fruits meld with floral, savoury, earthy, graphite (think pencil shavings) and wood spice elements to end in a deliciously lingering finish.
Here are three prime examples:
… all very much in their heyday but with good staying power ahead.
Chateau Libertas 1994: Nearing its 30th anniversary and still glowing. Refined, elegant, and so alive, with mouth-watering red berry fruit, savoury, and mineral notes.
Nederburg Two Centuries Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Powerful, linear, and graceful with rich, concentrated aromas and flavours of dark red and black fruit, vibrant acidity and muscular but supple tannins. A masterclass in endurance, this is a wine offering decades of pleasure ahead.
Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon 2017: Coming into its own now. If you can avoid succumbing to temptation, it will reward you with the satisfaction of even greater complexity, five years from now or longer. Expect Stellenbosch’s best-of-best here, with cassis, red currant coffee spice on the nose and palate.
Yours in wine
Michael van Deventer