I used to have regular discussions with a friend of mine over the wines we tasted together. He would say that I always opened my wines too young, before they had a chance to develop all their complexities. I would counter that he always kept his wines too long, so that they lost their fruit and freshness and were past their best. Of course, we were both right and both wrong; wine is about tastes and opinions and his and mine clearly differed.
But he had a point; most of the wines my wife and I drink at home are quite young. So, when I opened a 9-year-old Rioja recently, it was a bit of a shock at first. I had to adjust to the different tastes and search hard for the words to describe its character.
Urbina’s Rioja Crianza 2012 (Wine Society, a bargain at £10.95) was at an interesting stage of its development, still retaining some of its youthful cassis fruit alongside some attractive cooked plum flavours, more typical of wines showing a bit more age. All this was wrapped up with distinct coconut and cedar flavours from the oak ageing. I was actually a little surprised at the oakiness of the wine; the Crianza category only requires wine to spend 6 months in oak barrels, although many of the more traditional producers – among them, I suspect, Urbina – significantly exceed this minimum without upgrading to Reserva status.
Overall, we both enjoyed the wine with its – for us – different tastes, and it certainly went really well with some rib-eye steak. But did it convince us to buy older wines more often? I don’t think so. And should we have waited until it was even older before opening it? I would say firmly ‘no’; my friend, I am sure, would be equally convinced that it would improve further after a few more years in the bottle.
Life would be so boring if we all liked the same.