Behold a bottle of excellent manzanilla – one of the top wines from Sanchez Ayala bottled by Equipo Navazos and one of the first of theirs that I tried. As the second band label makes clear, this bottle is one of six hundred that Equipo Navazos reserved at bottling in October 2011 and have only released again now in November 2011. These bottle aged wines are currently all the go (you may have noticed my own musings and even the new category on the blog), and indeed the stated reason for holding these wines back (five years ago) is to show that they are capable of ageing like any great white wine. The experiment deserves nothing but praise – these guys really have done as much as anyone to generate interest and debate about these wines, and this is another superb release on that score. (My appreciation also to Angelita Madrid – what a luxury it is to be able to have a wine like this by the glass.)
This wine is great. It was always a rich colour but now has an old straw complexion and a lovely yeasty, chamomile and acetaldehide nose, nutty, citrus flavours and zingy salinity. It has retained its biological character and is really top class.
But is it better than it was five years ago? Compared against my (admittedly fading) memory of the wine I first tasted it seems finer and has a bit more smokey flavour, an additional burnt edge and an even more elegant profile. But in my minds eye it seems a touch duller and blunter than it once was, and the additional edge of flavour makes it – to my imagining – slightly more bitter.
I fear I may be projecting my views about bottle ageing these wines. Do I remember this wine as zesty and fresh, or am I imagining that to confirm my theory? I will never know – I have a bottle in the fridge but evidently it is also five years in the bottle. And in the end, what does it matter? I am sure many others will enjoy this wine, which is excellent, and there is no doubt that that shade less punchiness brings it down nearer to the more accessible range of mortal wines.
But ultimately I am put in mind of that old sheep of the Lake District, Wordsworth, and his famous definition of poetry being “emotion recollected in tranquility”. Although I enjoy the poetry of these old wines, I generally prefer the emotion of the new ones.