In the year 2000, Delicata won a Gold medal in Bordeaux for its 1997 vintage Grand Vin de Hauteville Cabernet Sauvignon. So at the time I took a chance, as I often do with good wines and I put a couple of cases away to drink at a later date. At the time, I told wine loving family and friends that this was a wine that would keep for between 8 – 10 years, but I remember thinking deep down’ that it would keep for longer. But I always lean towards the conservative side of a wines ageing potential when advising other people to ‘put their money where my mouth is'’ so to speak.
Well last week-end, prompted by a rather delicious smelling roast leg of lamb, I decided to open a bottle of the 14 year old Cabernet Sauvignon that I had had standing upright for 48 hours, to see if I had been right regarding this wines ageing potential. I opened the wine about 2 hours before it was to be drunk and decanted it to remove a small amount of sediment that had formed and give the wine a good airing. Well the wine was everything I could have wished for and more. I would say it has at least another 5 years aging potential, which is good news for me because I still have some bottles left. The wine itself still has a deep red colour with very little browning, it has an intense, mature Cabernet Sauvignon nose with subtle hints of spice, red fruits and tobacco. On the palate it was smooth and silky, full bodied and juicy with wonderful black current flavours and soft mature tannins. The wine has a delicious lengthy finish and as I said, it still has a long way to go.
It is also worth mentioning that my wine storage facilities at home are pretty lousy. I live in an apartment, so there is no cool cellar or temperature controlled cabinets to keep the wines in perfect condition. They are simply stored laying down in wine racks away from direct sunlight and ‘hotspots’, but like every apartment during the summer months in Malta there is a substantial amount of temperature fluctuation. Now this is not good for the wine and the downside is that the wines being kept will mature quicker. So if it survived 14 years (plus more to come) with my poor storage facilities the chance are that the wine would have lasted a lot longer under ideal conditions. My feelings have always been that good full bodied red wines are far more ‘hardy' than we give them credit for.
The wine which went perfectly with the roast lamb was finished off with French goats cheese and a chunk of good Parmeggiano and left me craving for more, which is always the sign of a good bottle of wine. It also got me thinking about missed opportunities, not only for wine consumers, but for all the restaurants on the island who don’t ‘invest’ in Maltese wines that will mature well and can therefore be sold on at a higher price. If I had purchased this bottle of 14 year old Grand Vin de Hauteville Cabernet Sauvignon in a restaurant, at double or triple the price, I would have had no regrets! It would have been worth every Euro cent!!
In overseas restaurants we think nothing of opening up a wine list and seeing a selection of the same wines from different vintages with different prices. For example Chateau X – 2009 vintage = €20.00, Chateau X – 1999 vintage = €50.00, Chateau X – 1989 vintage = €100.00 etc, etc. Some people are prepared to pay for what is, more often than not, a better wine and they understand why they are being charged extra for it. And the sad thing is, that these wines will often be drunk far too young and their full potential never realised.
So my advice, to both wine lovers and restaurateurs, take the odd risk with good quality Malta red wines, buy them while they are cheap, lay them down and taste them a few years down the road. Your palate and your pocket could be in for a very nice surprise!