Can you taste a new producer's wines and know they need cellar time?

An offshoot of the our-own-list-of-classics thread. Can a wine drinker taste a new producer’s wines (no track record at all) and correctly predict they will need cellar time to shine?

We do this all the time on other avenues, making judgments with little real data upon which to base our decisions. Experience and intuition do come into play of course.

I say yes, this can be done.

I have been wrong more times than I care to recall. Both on wines I thought were not all that great and time would not help and on wines I loved early but thought would get even better. And then there are the bottles that I think do just need some time and I was right. So for me the answer is no, I really can’t tell. But the upside is I stopped worrying about too young or too old.

I thought the question at issue in the thread was somewhat different, namely: “Can a wine-drinker taste a new producer’s wines and know that they will be “classics” in a few years” ?
(With the wine-maker in question, I’ve already tossed two 2013 Mourvedres this year b/c of excess VA. A bunch of 2012 whites went all funky on me too and went down the drain)

The answer to your question is, imho, sometimes yes. But I don’t think you can taste the wine from a relatively new winery and say definitively, in 10 years, these wines will be classics.

Depends in large part on the character of the wines. When I first tasted Rhys, I would have bet anything they’d age and improve based on their structural similarity to other Pinot that ages and improves. But for a unique wine like Dirty & Rowdy’s Familiar Mourvedre, I haven’t the slightest clue.

A really interesting question - and one I’ll be interested in hearing other folks’ opinions on.

I am always amazed that certain new producers seem to be given more of a ‘green light’ based on pedigree of winemaker or vineyard or region or who they’re related to or work for. It truly is interesting.

One thing I see happen so darned often is if a producer is unknown and his/her wines are ‘different’ (ie. higher acid / higher tannin) and are ‘backwards’ upon release, they are most often NOT given the benefit of the doubt. They are considered ‘out of balance’.

But other new producers, with no more of a track record, producing wines in this manner, are often deemed ‘ageworthy’. Truly fascinating.

Back in the day, one would taste a wine and if it had ‘sufficient fruit and tannin structure’, one would say it would be ageworthy. To me, a wine has to have good acid/fruit/tannin balance - without all three, to me, the wine won’t truly last ‘the test of time’ . . . whatever time frame you prefer to use.


It’s all educated guesses to me. However, I find that established producers whose wines age and develop really well tend to improve when a young bottle is ‘nursed’ over several days. White or red.

Call it reverse-engineering, but I think that test supports the ‘educated’ side of the guess and could be applied to a producer without the history to some degree.

To touch on Larry’s point, I find that ‘professionals’ tend to miss the mark a lot when they have little experience with an individual producers’ aging curve. ‘Tight’ may be viewed as ‘thin’ when it is actually ‘taut.’ Aging potential is then seriously underestimated. The benefit of a doubt is applied or withheld for reasons other than the wine in front of the taster.

Spoilage over the long term is missed by the above test, though.


I liked Ryan’s Rhys/Dirty and Rowdy answer. I agree – love both sets of wines but would be more confident cellaring the former.

The degree of “naturalness” of the wines has to factor in too, especially with untested wineries. Though I seek out and support low-sulfur/less interventionist wines, I think the question of longevity is an issue.


Agreed entirely. And one thing - ‘professionals’ to me, in this case, also refers to many ‘educated’ wine consumers as well . . .


Astute points indeed. I do believe ‘stability’ comes into place, and there is a much higher than average potential that wines that are made in a more ‘natural’ style may not stand the test of time (with the exception of potentially higher acid versions with lower pH’s that may lead to greater stability).

Bummer about the VA on 2013’s - were they this way when you tried your first bottle as well?


On the former point, I’m really curious to age some D&R wines, should I get my hands on them. Since Hardy tends to pick pretty early, there’s some great acidity there - and me thinks these may develop into something really special over time. Just a hunch . . .


Yes. The way some of the D&R wines develop after they’ve been open a few days is interesting too. That lovely fruity playfulness mutates into something altogether deeper and more “serious” and more classically mourvedre.

I like to think yes but have been wrong enough times to say no, I am not sure i can reliably. I rely the most on specific experience more than anything else. In other words empirical testing is more reliable than I am. Not that it will ever stop me from having an opinion!

We have used this benchmark with some success as well. Also uncorking a younger wine 24 hours in advance, taking a brief taste for memory, and then the next day finding a different wine seems to support the concept that the bottle will age gracefully.

A specific wine I tasted young and knew needed time (2003 Scholium Project Babylon, uncorked first upon arrival in 05 or 06) failed this several-day test though; the monolithic wine stayed nearly motionless over 2-3 days opened and recorked overnight, then just getting spoiled/oxidized the last day tasted. A well cared-for bottle now is remarkable Petite Sirah.

I bet most of us think we are much better it this than we really are. It’s an educated guess to me, and I’m as wrong as often as I am right. A perfect example: The modern 2005 St Emilions. I bought on the hype, tasted them immediately on release, and bought more. The tannins were huge as was the fruit. They were sexy and I read them with such promise. I read them as having the structure to mature for a very long time. I just went through a 10-year retro on all the St. Ems that I bought from this vintage, and each and every one aged terribly IMHO, the fruit and tannins faded (fruit actually dried out on some) and the oak and alcohol came to the fore. I got rid of all of them. My left banks from wineries that I have known for a long time, and that have been around for a long time, are showing great and still more to come.

I find that I am sticking to a more narrow band of wines that I have known for a very long time, or which have a track record that I can evaluate, including recommendations from people whose palates share similar preferences.

Basically, I suck at prognistication.

I think it’s easier to predict that wines won’t go the distance: those with too little acid, too much acid (though sometimes young that’s a good sign), too much alcohol, too dominated by oak, or with obvious flaws like VA or brett.

I think a lot of people taste powerful young wines and think they have the depth to age. But sometimes they don’t have the balance and the structure is fruit and alcohol and soft tannins that don’t hang together with age. I think it takes experience over many years – including many mistaken predictions – to have any sense of whether a wine will age.

Bedrock is a good example. I’ve like a number of their zins, which seem very balanced, but I don’t know if they’ll follow a similar trajectory as Ridge’s. I just have no idea.

Also, many New World producers change their winemaking so it’s hard to predict. I had a 2000 Copain syrah a few years ago that had evolved very nicely, but Wells Guthrie seemed surprised when I told him. He said he didn’t really know anything then (his second vintage, I think). A 2004, meanwhile, was tough as nails a year or so ago. Will his more recent vintages, picked less ripe, be different? I’m sure, but who knows if they’ll last longer or not.

So true. I’m amazed at people’s willingness to ante up for the mailing lists of startup wineries just because of the winemaker or the vineyard.

I think a lot of people who drink a lot of expensive wine actually have almost no experience tasting the same wine over time – tasting on release and years later. Or they’ve tasted over perhaps four or five years.

Also, young wines with high acid turn off many if not most people. I remember tasting 79 Bordeaux and 83 Northern Rhones and 1990 Barolo on release and thinking that were kind of nasty. I bought the Rhones. I wish I’d bought more of the other two!

The lesson for me was that you have to know the type of wine. Old style Northern Rhones, for instance, could be tough going young, but they were magical with age. Same thing with Burgundy. They can be tart and lack fruit.

Live and learn!

For some wine styles, yes. There are styles which surprise me to how long they age, and some such as Hunter Semillon would probably fool me.

How long is another matter, and I’d only really be capable of saying “Short, Medium or Long term cellaring”. I do fill out drinking windows in CT for such wines, but tend to follow the Jeremy Oliver approach and use consistent brackets e.g 1-2, 3-5, 6-9, 10-15, etc.

Yes, and particularly if you know some history of the variety, region and producer.

But will you be wrong some of the time? Of course.


But what if you DON’T know the producer? That’s the point here . . . :slight_smile:


Still yes, but your successful prediction percentage will probably be a little lower.