Cellar notes #19: From New World to old

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How do New World reds age? The latest bottles I've dusted off were a California cabernet sauvignon and an Australian shiraz. I bought the former, a bottle of 1987 Hess Collection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from John Armit Wines for around £12 a bottle a decade ago. Six bottles left. I don't remember much about the first six because I drank them long before I wiped my hard drive.

The colour was surprisingly deep, the aroma arresting, a classic Bordeaux (if you didn't know it was from California) with sweet, gamey, truffley scents and a flavour crammed full of sour cherry fruit and silky tannins making the whole thing a joy to drink. A second bottle of the same wine was starting to oxidise and taste stale: 15 years of age and bottle variation was creeping in.

Next was a 1990 Charles Melton Barossa Valley Shiraz. Halfway through pouring, I noticed a cloudy deposit, so there was no way I was going to get to the end of the bottle without leaving some of the dregs behind. I poured more carefully, ending up with about three quarters of clear, bricky-red wine in the decanter, the rest usefully consigned to the sauce for the roast partridge.

The wine was still youthful with spicy aromas and a mature, leathery edge. It was spicy and youthfully fruity on the palate, still vigorous, but in place of the primary shiraz opulence, a more savoury, almost Rhône-like fruitiness, with the tannins now fused and softened, with no alcohol burn. It went down perfectly with the partridge, but might have been even better if I'd left it to stand for 24 hours to allow the sediment to settle.

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