Five aged red wines to try for autumn 2022

Whether you buy it as a vintage or age it yourself, a mature red is sure to deepen your appreciation of wine.

A hot air balloon floats over vineyards near a winery in Tuscany.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Fiona Beckett
Published 2 Oct 2022, 06:04 BST

Recently, while lunching at Trivet restaurant in London, I had the opportunity to try a 1962 Penfolds Kalimna shiraz — not, by any means, the most expensive wine in the famous Australian producer’s range, but certainly one of the oldest (it was first made in 1959). And, while its fruit was faded, it was still showing astonishingly well.

So how had these flavours in this particular wine managed to last so long? To be capable of ageing, what wines really need is both concentration and structure — something that grapes like shiraz and cabernet sauvignon have in spades. When great wines are young they can sometimes seem almost out of kilter with pumped-up fruit and over-intrusive tannins. But as they age, the oak and the fruit meld together to create that smooth, velvety taste and texture that aficionados love so much.

So why don’t we all stash away our bottles? The truth is, these days not everyone likes the more fragile flavour of older wines, which can taste like dried fruit — lacking the exuberant, berry character we’re used to. That said, they can, and should, explode into life with the right kind of food, especially the roasts, braises and stews we tend to eat at this time of year as the weather gets colder. 

Another reason is that mature wines tend to be more expensive, which seems reasonable when you consider the fact that the producer has had to cellar them for longer. A rioja gran reserva, for example, has to be aged for five years before it’s released, at least two of which must be in oak. Compare this to a reserva, which can be released after three years, only one of which has to be in oak. For aged wine, the producer has to source better-quality grapes from older vines with lower yields and give them time in expensive barrels. That all costs. 

One way of mitigating this cost, if you’re buying wines for the long term, to drink in at least five years’ time, is to buy them en primeur — effectively putting a down payment on a vintage before it’s even bottled, then paying the tax and duty when the wine is delivered.

If it’s the medium term you’re looking at — and many young reds benefit from ageing a couple of years rather than a decade — store them at home in a cool room (not a garage or outdoor shed, which can both fluctuate in temperature). As for what to choose, shiraz, cabernet and blends of the two are the most obvious candidates, but malbec, zinfandel and GSM (grenache, syrah and mourvèdre) blends have staying power, too.

If you’re looking for a mature wine to drink now, look for lesser-known types like madiran, made in Gascony from the tannat grape, bandol from southwest France, and reds from central and southern Italy. And quite often you’ll get better examples from an independent wine merchant than from a supermarket.

Five wines to try

1. Col de Mundo Terre dei Vestini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017/18

The Abruzzo region’s montepulciano grape makes some gorgeous wines — headily rich and brambly. Great with lamb or winter game like pheasant. Drink within three years. £15.95. tanners-wines.co.uk

2. Château Bouscassé Madiran 2016 

Deep, plummy madiran from southwest France is made from tannat, a grape that’s famously long-lived, so will easily last another seven or eight years. Tuck it away and bring it out to accompany winter braises and stews. £18. thewinesociety.com

3. CVNE Imperial Rioja Reserva 2016/17 

One of the most consistently reliable rioja reservas, which, while not quite reaching the heights of CVNE’s glorious 2015 gran reserva, is half the price and much more widely available. Smooth, mellow and ideal for a roast. £19.95. coop.co.uk

4. Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018/19 

Deep and intense, this is one of Penfolds’ more underrated reds. Hang onto it for at least five years — it’ll easily last 20. If you can’t wait, decant it before drinking (with a good steak, preferably). £26. hic-winemerchants.com

5. Harvey Nichols Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

The price of Napa Valley cabernet can reach dizzy heights, so £35 is a good price for this smooth, velvety wine, made by respected producer Joseph Phelps. Perfect with a gourmet burger. £35. harveynichols.com

Published in Issue 17 (autumn 2022) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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