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Is It the Wine, or Us?

改變的是葡萄酒、還是是我們?

 

喝酒多年,認識不同的酒友,發現他們飲酒的習慣也有所不同,尤其是對於年份的理解有所不同。對於酒齡較淺、或較年輕的朋友,他們會較喜歡年份較新的葡萄酒,喜歡她們的艷麗、明亮、濃郁的感覺,一般陳年三至七年的葡萄酒他會便覺得很滿意。反而對於年份較老、較舊的葡萄酒,一般都沒有太好的印象,當然那些特別出色、長命的葡萄酒會例外。對於酒齡、年紀較大的前輩,他們都有傾向喜歡舊年份酒的偏好﹐喜歡舊酒的香醇、馥郁、內斂,反而不太喜歡新年份的葡萄酒,沒有十多二十年的酒都不會有很好的評價。最初我以為是年資的不同,由於嚐盡不少美酒而養成的一種審酒眼光,後來從一些前輩的口中發現另一種見解。

Over the years of wine drinking, I’ve come to meet many wine buddies and have noticed a varied range of drinking habits from many of them, especially in terms of their views on wine and their vintage years. To my younger friends, they seem to prefer younger wines, attracted by the colors, brilliance, and richness that these wines bring, completely satisfied with wines ranging anywhere from three to seven years old. The older, aged wines, on the other hand, don’t seem to bring that same appeal, aside from the occasional outstanding or long-lived exceptions of course. In contrast, the age of wines seem to be more of a topic of consideration for the older generation, preferring the aroma and depth of aged wines and quality vintages- to this crowd, wines younger than 10 or 20 years are usually not looked upon too favorably. Initially, I attributed the reason for this dichotomy to a seniority issue, where wine drinkers develop a certain eye for wine after years of tasting and comparing, but I later discovered (over a conversation with folks from the “older” generation) that there was a different explanation for this phenomenon.

 

一位飲酒數十載的朋友告訴我,說現在的葡萄酒都變了。在數十年前他最初接觸葡萄酒的時候,剛釀成數載的葡萄酒,那怕是名莊出品,都難喝得要命,單寧苦澀、沒有平衡可言。那些酒,非得存放上二十年左右才可以飲用,因此市面上有質數的葡萄酒都是二十多年的佳釀。那會像現在上市三、五年的靚酒,便已全部傾進我們的肚子裏。事實上他也驚訝於現在的葡萄酒是那麼早便可口得你我都會豪不猶豫地灌下去,也能讓人陶醉不已。

A fellow wine lover, who has been drinking wine for over 10 years told me that wines today have changed. According to him, when he first came in contact with wine 10 plus years ago, aged wines (from renowned wineries, no less), were absolutely foul- bitterly tannic, and completely unbalanced to say the least. Those sort of wines would be considered undrinkable until they were at least 20 years old or more, and therefore all “quality” wines back then were wines that had aged at least 20 years. Fast forward 10 years to today, those types of wines would be equal to a modern-day wine of say, three of five years old. To wine drinkers of that generation, it is all rather shocking that people today choose to drink and appreciate wines of such a young age.

 

也有前輩質疑是現代人的口味、文化都變了,節奏太快,沒有時間去等候,也沒有時間花在一瓶陳年的葡萄酒身上,口味上追求刺激、直接、驚艷澎湃的葡萄酒,忘記了細味葡萄酒的樂趣;好些人都懶得去花數小時去醒酒,要求即開即飲﹐因此葡萄酒也隨着人們的口味在改變。

There is another school of thought from the previous generation that times have changed and tastes have changed. With the ever-quickening pace of daily life, nothing waits, and that includes wine. Tastes and preferences have shifted, seeking only the exciting, the rush, the now, and forgetting the pleasure of slowly savoring a wine that characterized the entire wine culture just a decade ago. Unwilling to “waste” time allowing the wine to breathe, many wine drinkers today want a wine that can be instantly consumed upon opening. In line with the shift of taste, culture, and perception, wines have also, as a result, changed with the times.

 


兩個觀點我都認同,人變了、葡萄酒也變了。葡萄酒的釀造不斷改進,由葡萄園的管理,以至釀造的工藝、技術不斷進步,新科技的加入,釀酒師能夠完全控制完成品的每一項細節,造出心目中想要的葡萄酒。在新世界葡萄酒產區,所有有利出產優質葡萄酒的條件都可滿足下,我們現在都有供應穩定的優質葡萄酒可享用。以前我們可要確定某些產區收成良好才可有好酒喝。在法國波爾多,現在幾乎每年都是Great Vintage或Good Vintage,很少會有所謂的Bad Vintage,這不是全球暖化所至,而是酒莊在不良的條件下仍可在葡萄園、收成時所下的功夫去改良出品,是技術進步的成果,好些大莊更會動用衛星測量去了解她們整個葡萄園不同部分的土壤有何不同而作出不同管理。要造出美味而又可年青時享用的葡萄酒已經毫不困難,何樂而不為呢?只要價錢合理便可了!

Both perspectives have their valid points – as people change, wines change. The process of winemaking is also continuously changing and improving; from the management of vineyards to the techniques employed, the constant surge of new technology allows winemakers to control every single detail within the winemaking process, producing the exact wines that they desire to create. In areas where New World wines are produced, all conditions needed to create a great wine can be easily met, providing a consistent flow of quality wines for all to enjoy. Back in the day, only wines from certain regions with good harvests would be deemed “worthy” of tasting, but these days, pretty much every year is a “great vintage” or “good vintage” in areas like Bordeaux, with “bad vintages” becoming an increasingly rare sight. This is not a result of global warming, but rather that most wineries are now able to control or improve on their products even during a so-called “bad year”. In an age of constant technological breakthroughs, many wineries even utilize satellite tools to survey the conditions of the soil in order to more accurately plan an appropriate management system for the vineyard. Creating a quality wine that can be enjoyed at a young age is not a difficult task today –as long as the price is right, who would say no to that?

同時間,人們的生活習慣、口味、需求也不斷在改變。葡萄酒已經由貴族、小眾的飲料,變成現在大眾都能享用的飲品。以前的酒痴當然不介意先花錢買下來再等多十年廿年拿出來喝;但新入門的卻會希望盡快可以品嚐。由於需求如此快、如此大,加上葡萄酒文不斷傳到地球上不同地方、國家、民族,在商業上充足的供應是非常重要的。由開墾葡萄園到可以釀酒出品,最少也得花上十年八載,如果再要多等二 十年才可飲用葡萄酒實在太花時間了。由於工藝的許可,現在的葡萄酒已經可以在年輕時飲用也十分美味,果味香濃,單寧不會太酸瀝,收結舒服悠長,使更多人能享受到葡萄酒的樂趣。

At the same time, people’s lifestyles, tastes and needs are also constantly changing. Wine has evolved from being a beverage of the royalty and elite to being enjoyed by the masses. Wine enthusiasts back then would not flinch at pre-paying for a bottle of wine to wait ten or twenty years to drink it, but wine drinkers today hope to taste their wines as soon as possible. With the increasing demand for wine and the global accessibility to the latest wine news, the commercial aspects to wine has become one of the most crucial elements in running a wine business. To start up a vineyard from cultivation of the land to the production of actual wine takes years in itself, but to wait another 10 or 20 years for the aging process would just be too long. With newer techniques, wine just a few years in can be enjoyed today in its full, fruity richness, not too tannic, with a long, lingering finish, allowing more of us to enjoy the pleasures of wine tasting and appreciation.

 

也有人質疑,如果我們把葡萄酒造得那麼完美,那麼早便進入適飲期,會否使葡萄酒的陳年潛力大減,例如2000年的波爾多一級酒會否像1900年般長壽?我不能肯定,但不會認同。因為這些都是要等數十年才可肯定的,但根據前輩的經驗,有些所謂好年份不見得比壞年份成熟得更好,如1947相比1948,因此會出現那些被低估的年份酒。但我深信,那些在種植、採收、釀造都花了那麼多心機、精力的葡萄酒,加上良好的Terroir,一定會在瓶中不斷演化,成為一枝扣人心弦的夢幻葡萄酒。你又有為自己存起多少枝自己喜愛的夢幻葡萄酒呢?

Some may wonder whether such “perfect” wines of today would be able to age as gracefully as its predecessors? Would say, a 2000 Bordeaux be able to age like the 1900 Bordeaux? It’s hard to say at this point, as it usually requires at least over a decade before one can even start to judge, but according to past experience, there have been instances where wines from supposedly “good vintage” years did not age as well as their counterparts from allegedly “bad vintage” years. Just look at 1947 and 1948- from time to time, there have been occasions where we see underestimated vintage years resurfacing into our radars. I firmly believe that wines which have been meticulously cultivated, grown, harvested, and produced, along with superior terroir, will nevertheless continue to evolve within their bottles, transforming into “dream wines” that tug at your heartstrings. How many bottles of dream wine have you been storing up?

 

(published in 2011 Jan Issue of Cru Magazine)