Age Game

Sometimes age matters, as Morris Gleitzman learned the hard way when he opened a young Penfolds.
Words
Morris Gleitzman
illustration

A few nights ago I did something I regretted almost immediately. I opened a 2015 Penfolds Bin 407. A superb wine, but still in its early infancy. The baby photos were barely posted online. I know, what was I thinking?

I could make excuses. I could tell you I grabbed it from the bottle-shop shelf without my glasses and thought it was an older year. 1915, for example.

The truth is, I opened it at a birthday dinner for somebody dear to me who wears her years so lightly and gorgeously that a few glasses of youthfulness seemed appropriate if not compulsory.

If you speak to the other guests, I’m pretty sure they’ll give me ten out of ten for Romance, five out of ten for Blatant Favour Currying, but for Wine Selection a big round zero, which was the shape of their mouths after the first taste.

I snatched the glasses back, tipped the whole lot into a decanter and blew bubbles in it with a straw, a little aerating strategy that Wolf Blass taught me when he was five.

With a sad heart I have to confess that a fine wine did not reach its potential that night. It didn’t even reach the lips of the guests again once they peered into the decanter and saw the bits of parsley from my osso bucco.

Regrets, I’ve had a few. But more than I could have anticipated with that little fiasco. Because last night something happened that proved truth can be stranger than fiction, even those times Jane Austen had a little too much 1815 Penfolds Bin 407.

We had dinner with another friend, one who wasn’t at the birthday dinner and knew nothing of the fiasco. We started with the wine I’d brought, a modest drop I produce at home which I call the 2018 Glentail Sparkling Blush, not because I’m embarrassed by it, but because it’s a blend of Yellowglen and Yellowtail.

Our friend insisted the next bottle should be one of hers, and in an act of remarkable generosity and coincidence, she opened a bottle she’d been given as a gift. A 2002 Penfolds Bin 407.

Even before tasting it, I knew it would be in perfect condition because the bottle had a sticker on it from a professional wine-storage facility. One of those places where the wine is kept in an atmosphere of strictly-controlled temperature and humidity and absolutely no staying up late binge-watching Netflix.

Please allow me to draw a veil over the sublime but unsettling impact the 2002 had on my nose, my palate and wherever in the bowel regret comes from.

Instead, a nod of gratitude to the universe for sometimes bringing our follies full-circle and leaving us holding a glass that contains not just the worst but also the best of times. Which is why, at the earliest opportunity, I’m going to be opening a bottle of 2018 Grange.