Zinfandel: Why Wait? -or- Slaughter Your Darlings, Or Not? -or- Faster, Faster, Zin Cat!

Full disclosure, this post is in fact a long and winding road towards examining questions of Ageability and Zinfandel.

I hope you read it.

But if you’d rather just let Jameson Fink tell it to you in his deliciously Without Worry Way, then just click here: Wine Without Worry

And for your daily Spoiler Alert, please note, Jameson will be praiseful of Lytton Springs both library and contemporary in his post.

And as Devo once said, That’s Good.

And so, as Captain Beefheart once said, Follow The Yellow Brick Road:

Around the corner, the wind blew back
Follow the yellow brick road
It ended up in black on black
I was taught the gift of love


I had a poetry instructor once, who loved to use the phrase: “Slaughter Your Darlings.”

In the context of a poetry workshop, this essentially meant revise via cutting out your favorite sections; the assumption being that whatever your most cherished attachments were, they were probably wrong, and you needed to break past them somehow. The implication was, in fact, that your adherence to  your “darling” was in fact the very thing that was holding you back.

Put another way, don’t assume that what you think is good and true, is in fact good and true.

I actually often found this to be a very helpful exercise as regards the revision process, because I generally ended up either a) making actual, and often dramatic, progress with the poem, or b) reconfirming for myself that I’d been right in the first place; resulting in greater confidence as regards the original form of the poem.

So, let’s slaughter a darling, shall we?

The longer a wine can age, the better it is.

Put another way:

The best wines are the ones that can age the longest.

Meaning, the “darling” is the assumption that, at the end of the day, the ultimate barometer of quality for a truly fine wine is its ageability.

We hear iterations of this all the time, and it’s certainly a favorite bragging right amongst a great many collectors; how long they’ve laid their wines down, how far back they go, how deep their vertical is, etc.

And we see it in reviews all the time, and on labels; ours included. Ageability estimates and projections.

So, here goes the “slaughter”:

Aged wine doesn’t taste good.


What if it doesn’t?

What if this most cherished of beliefs isn’t true?

What if we shouldn’t be aging wine?

Enter Zinfandel.


The modern Don’t Age Classic.

Drink Now! Approachable! Fruit-Forward! Faster, Faster, Zin Cat!

Should you age it?

No! Zinfandel doesn’t age!

Except, wait a minute …

Google “Zinfandel Doesn’t Age,” and what do you get?

A whole bunch of people who say things like, “People always say Zinfandel doesn’t age, but …”

But, DOES anyone ACTUALLY say that Zinfandel doesn’t age?

DO people always say???

Maybe they don’t?

Maybe, in fact, the actual “darling” in question, is the idea that people think Zinfandel doesn’t age?

Well, that’s a bit of a twist, isn’t it?

So, who slaughters who, and how?

Let’s look at the key questions:

First off, should wine age, and is that important?

Second, can Zinfandel age, or not?

Third, does anyone actually think it can’t?

How to answer?

Well, I for one don’t think an “airport” novel that you read once and throw away is a bad thing.

It’s not.

But I also don’t think it’s great literature.

To be a great work of literature, it should reward you for return visits. It should not only require your engagement, it should necessitate it. It should balance enjoyment with challenge, and it should move you. It should be just challenging enough that you feel great when you finish, and alive while you try. But not so difficult that you feel angry trying to get through it.

It should become a part of your life. Such that you will be ever so slightly different a person forever more for having read it.

To continue the metaphor, I, for one, don’t think a pop song that grabs the airwaves for a couple weeks than disappears is a bad thing.

It isn’t.

But I also don’t think it’s great music.

To be a great work of music … etc. I imagine you get my point.

So the question is, should wine age?

And the answer is, it should if it can.

Once again, should wine age?

It should if it can.

And please note the inverse; it shouldn’t if it can’t.

It shouldn’t if it can’t.

There is nothing more irritating than pop putting on airs.

So have we slaughtered any darlings after all?

Probably not.

But we have, perhaps, created a delightfully self-fulfilling maxim:

Ageable Wine Should Be Aged.

And to that I say:

Faster, Faster, Zin Cat!

And that then, completes the poem.

Categories: History, Lytton Springs, Press Reviews, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Vintage Wine Labels, Virtual Verticals, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine Blogs, Wine Quotes, Wine Tales, Winemaking, Zinfandel

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8 replies

  1. OK guys, so here is ANOTHER observation.
    Today is Sunday 20th July 2014.
    I have been at a lunch celebrating my 40th wedding. A ruby celebration. So what did we have?
    A bottle of 1974 Ch. La Lagune ( a French 3rd growth) – superb.
    A bottle of 1974 Coteaux du Layon (Loire demi sec) MAGNIFICENT – as it should be!!
    Oh yes, a bottle of Bridgehead Mataro 1995. Simply STUNNING. Now why do I post this here? Because a certain Mr. PD said in 1997 ” develop fully with another 4/5 years of bottle age”. Um, no. Today, it was as good as it was ever going to be. Paired with a 1995 Ch. Musar, it was superb.
    Yes I like older wines. This was proof positive!

  2. In my last comment, I indicated that I might add a comment on three older Ridge wines, tasted on Saturday.
    Let me set the scene. I am a ‘silver hair’, a retiree, whatever you want to call someone who is living on pensions gained through a chequered career. So, plenty of time on my hands to indulge both enjoy the time and the passion to discover where my cellar is going. I have been collecting wine for 30 years. By collecting I mean both buying more than I am drinking and building verticals of chosen wines. I now realise that wine is there to be enjoyed (consumed) not just for looking at. So, twice a year I assemble a dozen bottles and up to 20 friends to share the evening under the heading ‘Cellar Vie’. I opened a 1993 Chateau Grillet (Condrieu) which, according to some experts, is a wine at its best in the first 5 years after the vintage. At 20 years old, it was as fresh as a daisy, with just a hint of mellowing. This was followed by two Chardonnays, a 1993 Australian, show reserve from Rosemount and a 1994 Ridge. The Ridge won out with scores of 18½/20 averaged across the room. Yes, it was mellowing; but it was very much alive and enjoyable. Not bad for a wine that was given a ‘probable life’ of five years!

    But the highlight of the evening was the 1988 Geyserville. Oh boy, OH BOY! Surely there can be nothing better than this? it shone as an example to all of just what can be achieved. It scored 20/20 from 5 of the 17 people tasting, with one of them being told he could not score 25/20.
    Paired with a 1988 Paso Robles, which was given 5- 6 years at bottling, Good enough as an older wine, but it was wholly overwhelmed by the Geyserville.

    So, yes, Ridge Zins can and do age. Storage conditions are important; restraint is vital. The note on the label of the 2000 Petit Sirah warns ‘will reward those with patience to wait 20 years’. You just have to be patient.
    If you got this far, thank you!

  3. Guys, guys, guys. Oh dear, semantics SEM AN TICS.
    Of course wine can age. All you have to do is not open it. Thus it is older and THAT is where the discussion begins; do you like it or not? A 1966 Chevy is a 1966 Chevy. Is it better than the 1956? On what basis can you make a decision?? They are both motor cars imbued with personal views. Personally, I prefer the 1948!
    But then, that was when I was born, so it is more relevant to me!!

    Now, I have been to tastings of ‘older. wines, specifically clarets from the 1950s. Most were, to me, basket cases. Paraphrasing the Monty Python Parrot sketch; ‘It is an ex wine. It has shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choiry vestibule. Yet, there were those there – who had also paid their entry cost – who thought that these wines were simply what wine should be.

    I have never met Chris, nor indeed any of you, the other readers of this. Yet I know three things about all of you that are UNIQUE. They are your fingerprints, your retina and your taste. In this last, it is not just what you like, flavours etc., but how you describe them. If you can get a consensus, there is a possibility that any view can hold sway.

    So, buy your wine. Taste it. Consider, from your own experience, what YOU think might be the potential, other than immediate enjoyment. Come back in 12, 24, 36 months and check it out. Were you right? If not, lesson learned. If yes, bingo. Oh yes, by then there were another three vintages to look at! Joy.

    In four days time, I will open a 1994 Ridge Chardonnay, a 1988 Ridge Paso Robles and a 1988 Geyserville as part of a tasting of 12 wines from the 1980’s and 1990’s. How they perform, and how my guests reacted may be the subject of another response.

    Meanwhile enjoy your chosen wine. It was chosen using all the information you had available to you.

  4. Amen.

    But lemme get pedantic for a minute here: “It shouldn’t if it can’t” is not the converse of “It should if it can.” It’s the inverse. The converse is “It can if it should.” I could babble on about the contrapositive, but that would be pointless. So much more satisfying to sip some sumptuous (Lytton Estate) Syrah.

  5. Christopher,
    This post is just plum amaZIN.
    See what I did there?


  1. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Too Short

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