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Tim Aitkin asks - Who decides when a wine is ready to drink?

 Some styles are widely deemed age-worthy – think Barolo, Bordeaux or Vintage Port – while others seem destined for a short life. I was talking to a friend in South Africa about his Sauvignon Blanc recently, sharing his frustration with most punters’ impatience. “If they could drink the wine before we’ve picked the grapes, they would,” he told me. “Most of it’s consumed within eight months of the harvest.” 

It’s a generalisation, I know, but I think too many white wines are opened before their time. The opposite is true of reds. People hang on to them to the point of senescence, missing out on primary flavours that don’t turn into anything more interesting in the bottle. Only a handful of white grapes make it into people’s cellars or wine racks to develop further complexity. Riesling is the prime candidate, followed by Chardonnay (invariably a disappointment), certain styles of Semillon and the odd Chenin Blanc.

Albariño gets lumped in with things like Fiano, Pinot Grigio, Picpoul de Pinet and Sauvignon Blanc as what the French call “vins de l’année”, but it’s actually capable of remarkable longevity. 

Over the last week, I’ve tasted a 1994 Pazo de Señorans and a 1989 Granbazán Limousin, two Albariños that had aged beautifully. Albariño, like Assyrtiko, Furmint and dozens of other white grapes, is worth hanging on to rather than rushing to drink. Believe me, the rewards of patience can be considerable.Cheers

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