Journal | January 31, 2019
Rather than totally sell out each vintage, serious wineries hold back a portion of their bottlings. Some of these wine libraries are very extravagant and public. Most are simply a designated corner of the working cellar. In any situation, the storage conditions need to be cool and dark for proper aging.
Winery libraries are a critical part of a winery’s R & D. At Linden we use it to track two aspects of our craft.
The first is vintage impact. We have significant vintage (weather) variation. Just look at the last few years. I have learned from our library that hot, dry vintages may have some initial advantages for red wines, but it is the more classic (a.k.a. normal) vintages that age the best and give the most pleasure. White wine aging is primarily dependent on high acidity, which happens in the cooler years.
Most Linden red wines, especially the Avenius and Hardscrabble, tend to reward those who age the wines in the eight to fifteen year range. This is when they develop the most complexity, their tannins harmonize, and the wines still show loads of fruit. Some special vintages such as 1997 and 2001 will continue to age well past this mark.
My sweet spot for opening our Chardonnays is at five to eight years old. At our last Evolution Seminar we opened a 1993 that was still fresh and vibrant, but most Chardonnays at this age will show more signs of oxidation and lack of fruit.
This brings me to the second reason for keeping a library: to track our own evolution. Ours is a long, complex learning curve. Tasting past vintages helps us understand our progress. Occasionally we adopt new techniques or philosophies only to find that the traditional ones were more appropriate. One step back for every two steps forward. Winemaking and cellar practice changes can be somewhat unpredictable as far as long-term influences on wine development. However, vineyard improvements provide a much more reliable outcome.
When I taste Linden’s first vintage (1987), I blush at the memories of our techniques, decisions, and equipment. Youthful indiscretion perhaps, but a starting point none the less.