What drinking a 42yo aged wine reminded me to do

Hardys 1973 Hermitage


There’s something exciting about drinking an aged wine…. It’s a different experience, it’s different complexities, often a different world… And there’s something about drinking a bloody good aged wine, one that just blows you away. So, having said that you need to find a wine that will stand the test of time and improve with age, and you need to find a way to store it well. Now the storage side of things is probably another blogpost in itself so I will save that one for another day, but here’s something that occurred to me the other day, something that I really should do.

The other day I pulled out a 1973 Hardy’s McLarenVale Hermitage. I’ve posted my tasting notes / musings below as a few people from Instagram and Facebook have asked me to share what this one was like. It’s always fun trying an old red wine, hoping that the cork is ok and the wine tastes good. When it does, it can blow you away… But it was nearly the sense of occasion that made me remember something that I always said I would do one day. So, Here’s my notes on the wine and then I’ll chat about what this reminded me to do.

Tasting Notes – Hardy’s 1973 McLaren Vale Hermitage

Cork condition

  • almost perfect

Colour:

  • beautiful deep red colour still, with a touch of copper colour on the sides as you can see the colour starting to brown a little as it ages
  • becoming more medium bodied in weight

Nose:

  • I was 50/50 as to how this would be after getting some jammy / raisin flavours on the nose
  • after a little bit more time in the decanter it certainly started to smell ok, although a little more like a good Port

Palate:

  • silky smooth as you’d expect for a 42yo wine, subtle berries coming through. Probably lost some ‘bang’ over the years but still ripe berries coming through after all these years with some chocolate
  • did taste a little too much like a Port indicating some oxidation but I thought it may be much worse after smelling such like a Port on the nose
  • quite drinkable though, but probably 5-10 years to late. I had planned to drink this one many birthdays ago!

Did I enjoy it?

Yes and no… Yes, because of the experience and it actually drank ok and if you do like an old Port you would think this was pretty ok, however the nose puts you off a little. At the end of the day, it seemed like a really good wine that was 10 years past its best.

So, what did this remind me I should be doing? Well, this is something that everyone should try…  I really should be putting a dozen bottles of my favourite good red wines, for the birth year of my kids, away to cellar. How good would it be giving them a dozen of your faves on their 21st? My little ones aren’t very old yet so I can easily get some of the vintages of their birth years.

Here’s the challenge…

So this is the challenge I have set myself (and feel free to do it as well if you can or if it suits).

Pick 12 bottles of good red wine (or try a couple of bottles of white also if you are brave) of the year of your child’s birth. Find your favourites in that vintage over a few months and make your dream dozen.

Find somewhere that you can store them well. Give them to your kids on their 21st birthday…

Are you up for it? Leave a comment below if you are keen or if you are way ahead of me and already started!

Lynton Manuel

Lynton Manuel

Sports lover, tech lover, social media lover, family man and wine lover... Co-founder of WineCloud with a mission to make awesome wines more accessible to wine lovers. He also believes that chocolate yo-go's make a great food-wine pairing with Shiraz.
Lynton Manuel

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  • Matthew Edwards

    Way ahead of you. Luckily ’09 was a very good year in some of my favourite regions and, in particular Portugal, with some port houses declaring it a vintage year.

    Also, I got my eye on some wines with nods to my girls name. Miss Molly Sparkling Shiraz from Mollydooker is top of the list.

    Only 15 years to go!

  • Lynton Manuel

    Haha, you sound a little to excited about opening these already @disqus_Ugfu27e63t:disqus . What if she just to share them with friends on a girls night out? wink emoticon Mollydooker a good call by the way… I wonder how the sparkling would age though? Yep… has to be done now…

  • Matthew Edwards

    Sparkling reds develop a toasty, porty aspect even in the non-vintage style. I recently had a Rockford NV that I’d held on to for 10yrs – amazing! I also have a 1988 Sparkling Cabernet from our wedding day that I will be opening this year.

    I will let you know how it goes.

  • Lynton Manuel

    Ok, doing it too now… Will either grab a Bundaleer Sparkling Shiraz (love this one) or find a Seppelt sparkling shiraz… yummo

  • Hi Lynton. Your blog appeals to me on two fronts.

    No. 1 I was winemaking for Hardys in 1973 but that was my first vintage in the Barossa instead of at Tintara (McLaren Vale) where I did 1969 – 72 (albeit only ’72 as a Roseworthy graduate).

    McLaren Vale Hermitage was one of our “commercial” wines – I can’t remember the price but I would be surprised if it retailed for more than $3 per bottle.

    Your assessment of the old wine just reinforces my belief that we made “better” reds in those days. Even our “commercial” wines were made to last.

    It is difficult to pin down the differences because so many things have changed but lets talk process –

    We didn’t have any choice about the fruit intake. It just happened when the grower decided!

    We fermented the reds in open concrete fermenters with “heading” boards to keep the cap wet. Refrigeration was marginal with copper (aghast!) tubes inserted for cooling via water.

    BUT – once the wines had settled down their wood treatment was fastidious. Believe it or not, we actually “seasoned” new French oak by giving it a few weeks with acidulated water….!

    The difference I believe, at least in the Hardys style, was that we added both Oenotannin and red tannin at the fining stage. I have no scientific proof but I believe that this process re-balanced the removal of natural grape tannin during the fining process.

    Everything else being in balance, the result was a red that would age gracefully.

    BIRTH YEAR

    I was very lucky in that my kids were born in 1988 and 1990 – both great years in Australia.

    I put away a mixed case of reds from those years (plus a gifted Methuselah of 1990) and I loved the result. In fact my kids are so enamoured of wine that some bottles are still unopened!

    Enough already!

    Cheers

    Richard

  • Lynton Manuel

    Hi Richard,

    It’s fascinating to hear more about the winemaking process back then and your thoughts on the wine, so thanks so much for commenting!

    Yes, I definitely thought it might have been a ‘commercial’ release and I know I didn’t may too much for it probably 15 years ago, I knew it had been cellared well and even though the label was pretty tattered, everything else pointed to a good ‘birth year find’….

    You are probably right about the wines being made to last, that’s certainly something that may have been lost a little in recent times. This is probably partly due to some of the more ‘fashionable’ wines in recent years being perhaps slightly lighter in style and perhaps a more ‘smashable’ (this is currently my favourite wine term which no doubt I will hate in a few years time), drink now, type wine. There’s certainly a current trend for some lighter style and lighter Italian style wines being made that definitely won’t last the same distance as the wines made 40 years ago. So, maybe it’s partly the style of wine, maybe that’s partly to winemakers having more influence in the wine style they are making (and not leaving it to the growers to decide when the grapes come in) and maybe it’s partly the processes as you mentioned. Do you think there’s a more natural / organic style of winemaking now compared to back then? Really really interesting to get your feedback though. I just wish I had that one 10 years ago, the cork was perfect and I think the wine would have been absolutely spot on!

    You thoughts on the fining process is interesting as well. Whilst that’s probably something outside my realm of expertise, from recent conversations with a few winemakers it sounds like that process may have changed the most in lots of ways over the years.

    I really need to get cracking on those dream dozens for my kids though now. You have just reinforced that I just have to do it! I would love my kids to be that enamoured with wine as well. And yes, a Methuselah – they should age even better in one of those! Now, If only I could afford 3 dozen of those babies 😉

    Thanks so much from commenting on this post – I really enjoyed reading your comments. Cheers, Lynton

  • G’day Lynton,

    Happy New Year. Time to sit around and catch up with my correspondence.

    You asked if I thought there was a more natural / organic style of winemaking now and the answer is emphatically “yes”. Wine making techniques have changed so much since the days when I was working in wineries. Today it is all about capturing the fruit organoleptics at the point of picking and preserving them through the whole process from harvest to the glass. The saying, “Wine is made in the vineyard” was not even around back in my day (although they instinctively knew it in Europe). If you can get a copy, I recommend reading Ian Hickinbotham’s book “Australian Plonky” – it will tell you all you need to know about the start of the revolution in Australian winemaking, in which Ian played a major part. I am proud to recall that I was his understudy during the 1973 Hunter Valley vintage, but I regret that I did not realise what a star he was at the time…

    As I recall, the major trend towards “fruitier” dry reds, specifically made for drinking young, was initiated by Rosemount when they released their 1993 Shiraz Cabernet in the year of its making. I have not had a chance to discuss this wine with the maker, Phil Shaw or the then Rosemount MD, Chris Hancock, but I assume the decision was largely driven by the looming shortage of red grapes in Australia. (By 1995 we were seeing red wine from South America and South Africa in the big companies’ 4 Litre “winecasks”).

    Of course, “the bean counters” would have loved it too – gone were the days when we would wait for January 2nd to release a commercial red that was “three years old…”. Just imagine the savings in inventory holding costs!

    Now, I don’t know if Rosemount started a WORLDWIDE trend, but they were a very influential brand internationally at the time and from my observation, most winemaking countries these days sell the majority of their reds “young”. In this regard you could say that Beaujolais was ahead of the trend and in fact, the wines of that region do not appear to be as prominent in the market as they were twenty or more years ago – notwithstanding currency fluctuations.

    To be honest, I have a “dinosaur palate” and I miss the reds of my youth. While I am dropping names, I was talking to Tim Knappstein recently. Tim was in the course before me at Roseworthy, so he has been around longer than me and I asked him if he missed the “old style” reds, hoping he would agree with me. He doesn’t!

    I guess because he has continued wine making while my career drifted off on another path, he sees the attraction of the youthful fruit character in today’s modern reds…

    …and because he runs his own business, he would also see the financial benefit of making reds that are ready to drink early!

  • Lynton Manuel

    Hi Richard, sorry, delayed comments from me as well – moving house / moving states / kids – all of those things combined! Yep, totally agree, not sure if Rosemount were the only ones but were definitely part of that change. I have to say I’m a real fan of both styles, with each of them having a place, but find I like the younger ‘ready to drink’ styles slightly more suited to different grapes, namely your Nebbiolo’s, Lagreins, etc… I just hope winemakers don’t panic and start pulling out 100 year old Shiraz vines to make some ‘younger, ready to drink’ style wines! It’s cyclical to some degree and trends and tastes certainly change. Those “old style” reds you mention will have their place, they just need to be marketed (targeted) well. Thanks for reading, the great feedback and expertise! Cheers, Lynton

  • Hi Lynton. I agree with you completely. The Italian varieties are definitely better suited to the younger “ready to drink” style of red. In that style I also like Cabernet Franc (as it appears in the Loire) and Gamay (as it appears in Beaujolais).

    I hope no-one is tempted to pull out any more 100 Year Old Shiraz, or Grenache vines. Hopefully the industry is now mature enough to understand that tastes are cyclical (as you say) – but one cannot ever predict the lack of insight of the big companies’ young “Bean Counters”….

    Just to get back onto old reds for a minute – last Wednesday I was very privileged to attend a dinner of ex and current Hardy wine makers, in honour of Bill Hardy’s retirement.

    I wish I could upload the wine list, but in lieu of that among other wines, we had –

    1992 Hardys Yarra Valley Pinot Noir

    1958 Hardys St. Thomas Burgundy

    1963 Chateau Reynella Cabernet Sauvignon

    1965 Chateau Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon (in Magnum)

    1947 Maurice O’Shea Burgundy

    1958 Mildara Hunter Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz (Said by Len Evans to have been one of Australia’s greatest reds)

    They were all holding up extremely well and the 1947 O’Shea was a revelation at 69 years of age!

    It goes back to our original conversation about the way they made reds in those days!