December 30, 2011

Sediment from 2005

Growing wine in a northern climate means that getting enough sun to properly ripen the grapes is a perennial challenge. Okanagan grapes will usually ripen in terms of colour and flavour, but will often fail to develop enough sugars, resulting in lower alcohol and flabby, unbalanced wine. A controversial process called Chaptalization (adding sugar to the must before fermentation) is usually required to remedy this situation. John Schreiner touches on the issue in his excellent book Chardonnay And Friends; Variety Wines of British Columbia.

One of the side-effects of Chaptalization, however, is that the wines tend not to age as well, nor as long.

We have repeatedly heard that five years is about the maximum time for a BC wine to age, assuming Chaptalization. With that in mind, we began rooting through our cellar (closet) to see what might require opening.

Happily,we found this Merlot from Burrowing Owl. A 2005, it was a year over-due. So we roast a hunk of beef in its honour and cracked it open.

Even a six year-old BC Merlot can throw a nice, thick sediment if stored (and opened) properly.

The wine was exactly as it should be; medium body, medium alcohol and medium tannin. The flavour had changed from bright plum and cherry to richer, more complex leather, dried fruit and creamy-smooth oak characteristics. We started drinking it immediately after opening and, while it peaked quickly, it did not fall apart as a lesser wine would. Rather, it maintained its signature structure through to the last drop.

If you have any five year-old BC wines in your collection, now is the time to start planning special meals and popping those corks.

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