Hastae Barbera d`Asti Quorum (2000)

When I first started cellaring wine with any seriousness, I had very little understanding about what drinking windows were and what aging did to wine. If Wine Spectator, or Robert Parker, or CellarTracker users said that a wine should be drunk between 2010 and 2020, I assumed that the wine would taste best in 2020 (which is an abridged version of the wine myth that older wine is better than younger wine).

This attitude, which I now know is misguided, is the main reason why a single bottle of 2000 Quorum has stayed in my cellar until tonight. I only ever had one bottle of it, but because CT said drink until 2012, I was saving it for some far off date in the future. (Interestingly enough, I once also had a bottle of 2001 Quorum, but as that said drink by 2010, I did… detailed notes not kept.)

Though I still am not all that experienced with older wines, I now have a better understanding of the aging process. Aging fades the fruit flavors in a wine, bringing out the earthy, secondary flavors. It also softens tannins, which is why very tannic wines are best suited for aging. Whether this actually makes the wine taste better is a matter of personal preference.

The best way to know about when a wine is ready to drink is to buy at least 6 bottles of it, and drink them at intervals until you feel like it is tasting great. (Of course, if you love the first bottle, why wait?) For this particular Quorum, however, I had one bottle. What to do? Well, my advice to my future self is to drink my only bottle of a wine at the beginning of the suggested tasting window. For some wines (like a Brunello, for example), that still may result in some cellaring, but for others – including Barberas, which, though they can often stand up to some aging, also taste pretty darn good when young – it probably would not.

There’s a saying (or perhaps I just made it up) that it is better to drink a wine too young than too old, which is especially true in today’s marketplace (where winemakers assume most consumers will drink them young). Young wine will show the wine’s fruit and true tannic personality, and decanting can help the wine open and might even soften the tannins. Plus, if you like it (or see its aging potential), you still have time to buy some more and maybe even lay it down.

As you may have guessed, I found this particular (11-year old) bottle to be fading fast. I didn’t mind it, but it probably would have been better a couple of years ago, and I kinda wish I hadn’t waited so long. But, then again, I wouldn’t have learned this lesson.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma of smoke, scorched earth, forest floor, and mushrooms. Not much fruit left. Taste did feature some tart red fruits like cranberry and cherry. Felt light in body despite the 14% abv. Aggressively acidic. Substantial tannins as well, though they took a back seat to the acid. Overall there were some interesting flavors here (though the scorched earth was a bit off-putting), but I think it was past its prime.