Mayacamas Vineyards released its 1970 Napa Valley Zinfandel this month for $100 a bottle, and no, that’s not a typo on the vintage date.
“Even more amazing,” says owner Bob Travers, “this is not a re-release, for we have never sold this wine before.” It’s been stored in the winery's Mount Veeder cellar since bottling.
Why the wait?
The 1970 Zinfandel never went through malolactic fermentation, Travers says in his newsletter, “so the acidity has always been very high and the wine was therefore very tart and puckery when young.” In other words, largely undrinkable.
Thirty-five years of aging has allowed the acidity to mellow a bit, says Travers. That high acidity has also kept this Zinfandel “alive, fresh and fruity,” he adds, wryly. “I only wish I was holding up that well.”
He goes on to suggest, “Be sure to drink this wine sometime in the next two hundred years,” before adding, “Well, actually, the corks are getting a little old so I would drink it in the next five years.”
The wine shows some ullage issues and throws considerable sediment. “Incredibly youthful, it is probably the youngest oldest Zinfandel you will ever encounter,” he says.
It’s extremely rare, of course, for red wines such as Cabernet or Zinfandel not to undergo malolactic fermentation. That process softens the tarter malic acid (found in green apples) and turns it into a creamier lactic acid (found in milk).
Without ML, the wines take forever to develop and, if the cork holds, can last almost forever.
I'm hoping to get a bottle and wonder if any of you have ever encountered a red wine that didn't undergo ML.