Charles Krug 1974 “Burgundy”

Tried a really amazing old wine today down at wine storage – the Charles Krug 1974 Napa Valley “Burgundy”, opened by Chuck Miller. The bottle was in perfect shape, and the wine itself amazingly spicy and lush. The term “Burgundy” here doesn’t really mean Pinot Noir, and the label merely says it’s choice “wine grapes,” which could mean it’s a mix of anything – cabernet, zinfandel, petite sirah. The color is fairly brick and orange, but it’s “old wine” spicy and complex. A real treat to taste, even though it’s very “weird” from a modern wine perspective.

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  2. Mark,

    That’s an interesting (and tricky) question. I have friends who dislike the way old wines change and lose the youthful fruitiness, so they prefer to drink them relatively young. Personally, with most good quality red wines, I like them to have “maturity” but not be “old” (more on this below).

    In the case of white wines, it’s tricky to define when to drink them — some German dessert wines really are better young (Eiswein), but most are spectacular when they come from a good vintage and are well stored and aged for 10-15 years. Great chardonnay (like white Burgundy) can age well for years, and 10-15 year old bottles from good vintages are tasting very good now.

    So…the hard part…what does “maturity” mean? I’ll focus on Cabernet-based wines as an example. Basically, as slow oxidation happens in the wine, chemical changes end up converting the flavors from a youthful fruitiness (“grape” or berry flavors) to something more like spices, complicated pipe tobacco like aromas, hints of coffee, leather, etc. All of these are really approximations — organic compounds in the wine are changing and giving the impression of these aromas. I find it amazing, as do a lot of folks who like older wines.

    Let me know next time you’re heading up to visit family and we’ll examine the matter empirically. :)

  3. Fascinating. So one should drink wine when it hits the ruby stage? What will the difference in taste be (I’m assuming better, but I guess I mean more specifically)?

  4. Mark,

    Oh! Brick in this context really refers to that orange-red color you see in actual house-building bricks. It’s a sign of reasonably advanced oxidation of the wine, usually (in good bottles) from age, but sometimes in bad bottles from premature exposure to excessive oxygen.

    Basically, you view this by looking at the *edge* of the wine in the glass where the rim of the wine touches the glass. In very young cabernets or other red wines, this rim will typically be purple or even purple-black, and then with a few years of age it’ll settle down to a typical “red purple” of the kind that you normally associate with red wine. Then as it begins to actually get mature, you’ll see full ruby red, and eventually the beginnings of orange/red (that gets called “brick” or “bricking”) and then finally, it’ll start to add mahogany brown as it slides over the hill….

  5. Would you say the wine had a fine “granularity”?

    Hint, hint.

    Alright, all jokes aside, what does it mean to be fairly “brick” in color? You are pretty much my only wine-God friend, so I’m fascinated by “brick” as an aesthetic description. It just sounds cool. I just don’t know what it means.