Read wine descriptions or reviews — or talk to a winemaker or tasting room staff member — and you’re bound to hear about how well a wine will age. Something along the lines of “will age gracefully for the next 10 years or more.”
The fact is that these are just guesses — sometimes educated guesses, yes — but guesses none the less.
It’s nearly impossible for anyone to know exactly how a wine will evolve in your cellar. Some wines improve for a long time. Others improve only for a year and then start to fade. Just “hanging on” doesn’t make a wine cellar-worthy. I’m not interested in whether or not a wine will hang on and be drinkable 20 years from now. What is important to me is if a wine will improve in the bottle.
Many Long Island red wines — even at the higher end — taste pretty well upon release. Local winemakers know that most of their customers aren’t laying wines down for long periods of time. I just read this week that 80 percentof all wine purchased in the United States is consumed within a week, after all.
I taste a fair amount of Long Island wine and a lot of it is very approachable at release. Sure, it may improve with some age, but it’s not hard to enjoy right away too.
Raphael 2013 First Label Merlot ($40) is a little different. It’s not released yet (look for it soon) and it shouldn’t be — but it’s still my Wine of the Week based on the potential it offers.
Made with 96 percent merlot (with 2 percent malbec and 2 percent petit verdot), it smells very Bordeaux-like when first opened with graphite, toasty oak and deep, concentrated cherry aromas. On the tightly wound palate it’s dominated a bit by young, chewy tannins. It’s a wine with uncommon structure for the region.
If you prefer a more fruit-forward wine, you should either look elsewhere or be patient. On day three open on my dining room table, it really blossomed with plum, black cherry and dried thyme — though it’s still not “fruity” as of this writing. This is a serious wine from a potentially very important vintage.