Recently, I had some minor anxiety over opening a bottle of wine that I had had in my wine rack for over 10 years. Because I have the Disease of More (as I've confessed on previous occasions), I often forget about things and then--horrors--there is waste and spoilage. Of course, the simple solution is to not bring so much into the house, but somehow this logic escapes me when I am shopping for wine and food.
So it was with fear and trepidation that opened a 12 year old bottle of Campo Viejo Tempranillo Reserva 1999 (Spain), fully expecting it to have oxidized. I have, admittedly, not stored my wine very well over the past several years and some of it has suffered as a result. Of course, a lot of oxidized wine makes perfectly good wine vinegar, but readers, I am up to my earbobs in expensive wine vinegar. In fact, I have some for you!! Next time you're here for dinner, bring a container and I'll gladly give you some!! You can have your choice of white, or red, or both!!
But let's talk some more about the 12 year old wine I drank: I removed the foil from the bottle and inspected the cork. There had been just a small amount of drying, but no wine had traveled farther than a quarter inch within a very small portion of the bottom of the cork. So far, so good. I put the corkscrew in the cork and began to pull. And that's where true anxiety rushed toward me like an oncoming train. The cork broke 2/3 of the way down and I began to consider that more disappointment would follow. You may think that I am overly dramatic about these things (and you would be right), but I do treat food and wine as serious matters. Matters of life and death. Because life without good food and wine is akin to death for me...and I wish that were true for more people that I know...
But Bacchus be praised, I was able to extract the rest of the cork with no particles that I could see left in the bottle, and I took a deep breath. This was to be the moment of truth. The moment when I might have to come to grips with yet another spoiled bottle of wine. My mind flashed back to a story I had read once of a serious wine collector who had bought a very old, very rare, very expensive bottle of wine at an auction. He carefully uncorked the wine, decanted it and allowed it to breathe. And then, when he poured it into the glass, he discovered it had oxidized in that very short period of time after it had left the bottle. What an immense disappointment this must have been for him. But I do hope that he enjoyed making luxury salad dressing with that wine!
So far, my investment was only about $10, which was what I would have paid on average for a bottle of wine about 10 years ago. Checking my online resources, I noted that not only was a 12 year old bottle of tempranillo still drinkable, but that a 1999 bottle of Campo Viejo Tempranillo Reserva was now valued at approximately $22, so I had a fairly decent bottle of everyday wine in my possession, and thankfully, had not invested several hundred or even several thousand dollars in it, as had the wine collector I mentioned. So I took another deep breath, steeled my nerves and poured the wine.
The garnet-hued liquid fell like a languid bolt of silk into the glass. It shimmered on the rim nearest the glass, russet fading to apricot. I put my nose into the glass and inhaled. Oak, leather, cherry and dark berries. I sipped and closed my eyes. Heaven on the palate! Berries, cherries, plums and vanilla. Beautifully balanced with enough acid, there was plenty of subtle oak and leather in the long finish. It was the kind of wine you should share, but don't really want to. It was a fabulous choice to enjoy with a smoky, peppery London broil and herb risotto that night. And it was plenty dessert for me.
Unquestionably, this was the best $10 bottle of wine I've ever had. I don't think I'll be allowed to have this experience twice in one lifetime. But I pray that I do.