Wine can be a love-hate relationship. And that’s part of what makes wine so great.
I’ve recently been on a campaign to drink up the last lone bottles of particular wines I have in the cellar. You know, those single bottles that mark the end of the six or 12 bottles that you initially bought. Each bottle along the way always delivered on its promise and it was great fun watching the wine evolve and change over the years.
But now you’re partly hoping the last one will deliver one last big bang, and so you’re hanging on out of love. But in the back of your mind, that last bottle is nagging at you because you know the wine may not be what it once was. I hate that nagging feeling—you know you’re going to have to deal with it at some point, no matter how long you put off the inevitable. The longer you wait, the longer the gamble on that last bottle. You love the wine; you hate to see it go.
When it comes to these last bottles, I'm happy knowing it’s the end. Being the last of its kind, so to speak, it takes on extra significance when I drink it. Though it might not show as well as it did throughout its prime, I know that drinking it will bring back all the memories of its evolution, as it progressed from a young, rich wine to a graceful, elegant, mature one.
But at the same time, I hate that I'm down to just one bottle. After I drink that last one, it’s gone, likely never to be tasted again. Even if it's past peak, a wine that’s only part of what it once was is still better than no wine at all. Should I hold out a little bit longer? I hate being indecisive like this.
This weekend, it was my last bottle of 1996 Etude Pinot Noir Carneros Heirloom that brought up these emotions. I looked at my past tasting notes and the dates they were drunk—summer dates where I was on the back porch with friends. Winter dates where I was inside, with a fire going and a lamb shank in front of me.
The last bottle was hanging on, with supple black fruit, spice and earth notes. I was happy it still had some life. Still, the acidity had started to fade, and the wine, while still good, was probably best drunk up a year or two earlier. And so by trying to hold out, I let that last bottle slide ever so slightly past peak. I was a little mad at myself for letting it go. But I was happy that I learned yet another lesson with wine.
And that's part of the love-hate relationship I have with wine. I wouldn't want it any other way.