From Faith: We experimented and learned you can rescue a “just okay” wine and make it great by mixing two bottles together.
We’re not professional winemakers; we fall down with respect for professionally trained blenders who create recipes for fabulous wines. Yet we wondered what would happen if we mixed together an old red that had begun to fade, blending it with a new (young) red of the same region that hadn’t quite matured enough to convey depth. I kept thinking of the wines as if they were two people entering a relationship, bonded by an overall mutuality, yet improved as a duo by each other’s strengths.
If you want to have some fun, try this at home with your friends and see what you think. Here’s what happened when we did it:
- Alex Province, who ran Province Imports, has a cellar filled with old wines he brought in years ago from Rioja in Spain. They have a lovely soft maturity, and I love drinking them with Alex, yet they are missing a certain muscle now, a bit of power. Ideally, we would want to blend one of these fading Riojas with a young Rioja from the exact same maker (vineyard). Because we didn’t have that, we reasoned that we could mix the old girl with a young, inexperienced red, as long as it was from the exact same Rioja region. That’s what we did, and let me say right up front that I realize this suddenly sounds like the lead-in for the TV series Cougar.
- To start, as you can hear in our show, we opened both Riojas from Spain, one mature and one young, each around $20 a bottle. We tasted them separately. Then we filled each glass, half with old and half with young wine. A little swirl to mix them and the taste — pretty damned terrific! While the wines together total $40, we feel we suddenly had a lot of complex and beautiful wine that we might have to pay a great deal more to drink. Besides, we made each wine better so we weren’t left feeling underwhelmed.
Our fun increased as we tried two thirds young with one third old, then the opposite, and so on. Try this with your pals and you’ll hear opinions flying. We love opinions flying because wine appreciation feels less intimidating that way, as in, ‘We’re the experts and you know nothing, poor child.’ We say drink what you like, explore with a sense of adventure, share with friends. That’s the game.
To give you encouragement, I once rescued a wildly expensive vintage (1988) bottle of Krug champagne, which was past its time, by screwing up my courage to mix it with a new bottle of Krug champagne. (I remembered reading you could do this in sommelier Raj Patel’s memoir.) It was, to this day, the single best champagne experience I have ever had; it was stunning and, yes, miraculous.