Cellar Master, Albie, on the exceptional ageing of Bordeaux blends…
Not only is this one of the most frequently asked questions we get in the tasting room or via social media platforms, but this is also one of the top 10 most frequently asked questions about wine, according to Google… In this article, our Cellar Master, Albie Koch, better known to most as De Toren’s very first winemaker, helped in shedding some light on this particular question…
Bordeaux-style blends consist of different varieties – it can be 2, 3 or even 5 cultivars that are blended. These varieties, as per the appellation of Bordeaux in France, are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Each of these varieties has different a unique taste, flavour and aroma – not one is the same. At De Toren we use all five of the Bordeaux varietals in the De Toren Fusion V and De Toren Z blends and with good reason – to build complexity. The De Toren Fusion V Bordeaux-style blend is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and De Toren Z is a Merlot-dominated Bordeaux –style blend.
When these varieties are separate, they each resemble very unique characteristics. By blending these 5 varieties, the result is a wine more complexed in flavour, structure and thus more depth of character. In a young wine the leading variety is very noticeable in the taste and nose profile of the wine. The flavour from that specific cultivar’s berries is very prominent and the wood essence from the barrel ageing still very sumptuous. These flavours are described as the primary flavours. One can easily relate to this as these flavours stem from the flavours of the berries the wine is made from and the wood of the barrels it was aged in.
After two to three years in the bottle, these primary, very fresh and prominent flavours, makes way for a second wave of flavours. The primary aroma is not gone; it is just toned down, due to the ageing of the wine. These secondary flavours has notes of minerality, less fruit jumping out of the glass and aromas and taste that was not noticeable at first when the wines was much younger. The leading variety’s characteristics has calmed down slightly, allowing the second biggest varietal in the blend, to have a presence. This makes for a very interesting discussion whilst enjoying the wine as every person might pick up something else in the wine, with every sip you might discover more – these layers and depth are revealing itself now.
Five years later that same wine is opened and all previous flavours are there but variety number 5 has now also decided to contribute, more than previously. The flavours constantly develop as they age and deeper hidden flavours of all 5 cultivars are expressed. This is what we call the development of complexity in a wine.
This being said, all wines age and evolve with time. Bordeaux blends just have more varietal characteristics, i.e. flavours and aromas, to ensure the complexity stay intact and develop, thus making it a fantastic choice of wine to age.