At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

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Corey N.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#1 Post by Corey N. » April 30th, 2016, 6:51 am

I've been drinking some older wines recently (very generally I like wines to be "middle aged") and had a couple older wines that I thought were "shot" or "over the hill". But it occurred to me, that maybe they were just old and not to my liking.

So what distinguishing characteristics make a wine over the hill/shot/past it's prime/etc.?
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#2 Post by M. Dildine » April 30th, 2016, 7:00 am

When they're no longer enjoyable, either intellectually or sensory?
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#3 Post by Corey N. » April 30th, 2016, 7:03 am

So it's not a lack of fruit, it's just personal taste?

I don't mean this as a swipe in any way, but it seems that for some (Francois comes immediately to mind) no wine is ever too old. I can't believe that's the majority view.
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#4 Post by Dennis Kanagie » April 30th, 2016, 7:14 am

Corey N. wrote:So it's not a lack of fruit, it's just personal taste?
Bingo. There's people who are baby killers and enjoy, or are immune to, tannins (Alan and his rants on aged _________ pop into my mind first and foremost), then there's people who enjoy a little to some bottle age (quite a larger group than the first, maybe Pobega fits here), then you have the ones who like a decade or two (Alfert, Neal, David, Stuart, me, and probably a large percentage of the membership), and finally there's the category who want ancient bottles (like Francois).

I think it also has a lot to do with the type of wine you like. Many Cali Cabs can be very enjoyable in only two to four years or even on release. Grand Cru French wines usually take 15 to 20+ years.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#5 Post by Michael S. Monie » April 30th, 2016, 7:28 am

It's clearly not the lack of primary and secondary aromas and flavors associated with fruit, for some people. But for most, there is an expectation that something will be there for sensory stimulation. When there is simply nothing or only structural components but nothing tertiary, I would think most would consider the wine to be dead.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#6 Post by John Morris » April 30th, 2016, 7:49 am

Corey N. wrote: So what distinguishing characteristics make a wine over the hill/shot/past it's prime/etc.?
Oxidation is one obvious flaw from age, but people have different tolerances for that. So unless it's extreme, you'll get a difference of opinion.

In some cases, wines go over the edge when the fruit fades and the tannins and/or acids don't. The wine can just be harsh.

Wines whose appeal is based on their up-front fruit may just become bland without gaining any complexity. That can happen with Beaujolais, dolcetto and barbera and many zins.

Many old reds take on a coffee note that I don't like. It seems tired to me. Others love that.

That coffee thing is an example of a larger category of over-hill-wines -- wines that have lost their personality so they just taste like generic old wine, red or white. If you can't tell if it's Bordeaux or Burgundy or a Cote Rotie or a Chateauneuf, it's probably past its prime.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#7 Post by Michael Martin » April 30th, 2016, 8:04 am

I've had old cab that tasted like apple cider. Old pinot that tasted like rose water. To me those were over the hill.

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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#8 Post by C. Mc Cart » April 30th, 2016, 8:14 am

I would say that lack of any freshness is my tale tell.
I generally like older wines, especially vs too young.

Wines can still be drinkable and fascinating when over the hill, certainly can be educational too.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#9 Post by Ian Sutton » April 30th, 2016, 9:24 am

I suppose there may also be some differences in what we mean. Some may mean 'past peak' whilst for others it's aged past the point the wine is enjoyable.

For me 'shot' is clear though - it's so far gone there is no meaningful interest.

I do like aged wines, so I have great tolerance for faded fruit & more than a hint of oxidation, if there is interesting tertiary complexity. The reasoning is that these aromas/tastes are more rarely experienced and can still hold interest in a wine that has developed over-mature flaws.

Though in moderation, these are acceptable: muddy, mushroomy, sherried/madeirised would be the aromas/favours that point towards OTH for me, but it can also be represented by wines that have fallen permanently out of balance e.g. a wine that has lost fruit flavours but retained oak related flavours, or where the acidity is fierce/shrill/sour and overpowers what remains of the rest of the wine. It could even be a wine that had low acidity and now is fat/flabby. I don't count as OTH a wine that has developed somewhat strong balsamic/barnyard aromas, but others would object to these.

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#10 Post by Bob Hunnicutt » April 30th, 2016, 9:25 am

When you used to like the wine when it was younger, but no longer do
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#11 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » April 30th, 2016, 10:30 am

All wines "ages," it's just that wine doesn't necessarily age "well" after a certain point.

Unlike traditional Bordeaux, for example, that might require 20+ years to come around, MOST wines that are made are intended to be consumed upon release or within a few years thereafter. A relatively small proportion of wine made today is intended to be cellared beyond 10 or 20 years, for example.

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#12 Post by Alan Eden » April 30th, 2016, 11:14 am

Of course there will not be agreement on a specific feature or character of a wine that classes it as over the hill. Take champagne, people here have extolled the virtues of 50 year old champagne that has lost all carbonization yet they love the remaining flavour profile, nobody would be shocked to find out that i would consider champagne at this stage to nothing more than dead bad still wine. Who is right ? if you bought a bottle of coke and opened it and got no fizz it would be returned as bad, yet champagne has aged gracefully ??

Dennis made comment to me being immune to tannins, thats not really it, the choice i make is that i accept the tannins because i really enjoy the fresh vibrant attack of big young fruit. I have had young bottles 13 Napa cabs that i just dont enjoy because the fruit has not developed yet they are just tannic at this stage, now i struggle with the concept of older cabs because i dont know where the fruit i love is coming from. I understand that tannins will integrate making the wine smoother but if the fruit is not there at day 1 where does it come from ? just drinking a fruitless wine with resolved tannins then coming out with the classic review of " it once had great fruit " is my issue with older wines

So " over the hill " to me is when youve lost that primary fruit, the integration of tannins is what i believe Dennis was talking about and this is the shelf of the wine but once that fruit has gone or the bubbles in champagne you have nothing left
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#13 Post by Drew Goin » April 30th, 2016, 1:45 pm

The French use a term as a swipe against the English, who, to my understanding, helped sculpt modern perceptions of taste in the world of wine:

Gout de Anglais = Gout de Mort

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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#14 Post by Ian Sutton » April 30th, 2016, 1:47 pm

Hi Alan
We probably occupy opposite ends of the spectrum on this topic, yet I fully understand your position and have no problem with it. In answer to your question "Who is right?" I offer "the person who is drinking the wine" as the answer. [cheers.gif]
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#15 Post by Keith Levenberg » April 30th, 2016, 2:24 pm

When the only thing you can write for a tasting note is, "tastes like old wine."

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#16 Post by johngonzales » April 30th, 2016, 2:27 pm

One of my favorite wine lines was uttered by one of the local winos at a dinner over some totally shot wine thar almost everyone else dumped. I really wonder if he believes wine can be over the hill.

He said: " It's lost all of it's primary, secondary, and tertiary flavors, but I like it."

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#17 Post by Mel Hill » April 30th, 2016, 2:48 pm

Old wine is like pornography, you know it when you taste
It.

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#18 Post by Corey N. » April 30th, 2016, 3:19 pm

Keith Levenberg wrote:When the only thing you can write for a tasting note is, "tastes like old wine."
Totally get that.
Mel Hill wrote:Old wine is like pornography, you know it when you taste
It.
And this too.

That said, I'm convinced that one man's "shot" is another man's "quaternary development".
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#19 Post by Joe B » April 30th, 2016, 4:13 pm

Its subjective. Lots of people want an old, over aged, senile wine. Mand they think they are GREAT.

Good for them too because at some point i will own some old overaged wines i forgot to get around to and post them on commerce corner.
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#20 Post by Nancy Dolce » April 30th, 2016, 5:55 pm

When it is too old for Francois Audouze.
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#21 Post by Corey N. » April 30th, 2016, 6:18 pm

Nancy Dolce wrote:When it is too old for Francois Audouze.
So you're saying never?
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#22 Post by Dennis Kanagie » April 30th, 2016, 6:58 pm

Joe B wrote:Its subjective. Lots of people want an old, over aged, senile wine. Mand they think they are GREAT.

Good for them too because at some point i will own some old overaged wines i forgot to get around to and post them on commerce corner.
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#23 Post by Victor Hong » April 30th, 2016, 7:06 pm

Corey N. wrote:I've been drinking some older wines recently (very generally I like wines to be "middle aged") and had a couple older wines that I thought were "shot" or "over the hill". But it occurred to me, that maybe they were just old and not to my liking.

So what distinguishing characteristics make a wine over the hill/shot/past it's prime/etc.?
My understanding is that your girlfriend prefers middle aged. [wow.gif]
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#24 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » May 1st, 2016, 5:14 am

We are looking for the elusive Goldilock's moment.

This from last night was definitely over the hill but interesting lovely.

Image

I guess the the porn reference is apropos.
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#25 Post by PaulMills » May 1st, 2016, 5:18 am

I find I like wine that has lost a lot of the fruit and has developed the dusty and leathery flavor profile of an aged Bordeaux. But I still like young vibrant wines too. We opened some 1990 Condriue with some friends a while back and they thought it was awful. Caroline and I loved the mushroom and earth flavors. We opened another bottles some a different set of friends and thy enjoyed it.

I think all of our palates are so individual that it is a totally personal idea of whether a wine is too old or too young. As long as you are enjoying it, that is what matters.

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#26 Post by edwardmilstein » May 1st, 2016, 5:33 am

Hard question since its so personal, but for me its when the flaws ruin ( overwhelm ) the enjoyment.Usually this is more from cork ( failure )than the age of the wine I believe. I think we'll see a different aging curve with the new stelvin and diams ( and maybe even the new quality ( and no TCA ) in the new corks ) from 20 yrs on. Some of it may be about loving the young fruit, vs secondary and terciary flavors,but generally( for me ) when a wine goes bad ( over the hill ) its from the cork
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#27 Post by Gerhard P. » May 1st, 2016, 5:56 am

Corey N. wrote: ....

So what distinguishing characteristics make a wine over the hill/shot/past it's prime/etc.?
Well, I do think there is a great difference between "over the hill" and "past apogee/prime" ...

1st: old wines have to be treated with care and according to the age ... meaning IMHO that slow-oxing them is very important. A wine can show totally shot right after opening, but will unfold and gain sweetness and nicely aged fruit within a few hours after opening - so a judgement within a few minutes may be totally wrong ... give it time.
On the other hand decanting right after pulling the cork can be desatrous ... the wine can get sharp and fruitless - and really be dead ... and it will never reach the best stage of enjoyment ...

A wine is "over the hill" when it is - after soft exposure to air by slow oxing for several hours - still showing almost no fruit but sharp acidity and clear heavy oxidation, and when it is of no interest and without any enjoyment ...

This can happen to "simple wines" not made for long aging and after decades of storage ...
wines that have been stored, shipped badly (too warm) ....
wines with a very low fill caused by bad cork quality ...
wines vinified badly from the start, bottled with heaving filtering, not enough sulfur ... or gained off-odours somehow ...
or wines that are simply of a very high age and not in perfect shape.

But there are wines that might have been better some years ago, should have been already drunk up and are clearly going downhill, losing fruit and expression ...
BUT are still showing interesting components as complex tertiaer aromas like wet leaves, moss and old mushrooms,
having an orange or browning colour, showing tiny signs of oxidation in the background, but can still be enjoyed at the table ... or being an interesting topic for discussion ...
I would call them "past apogee" but not "totally over the hill, shot or dead" ....

To drain such wines immediately down the sink because they are not youthful anymore means you might never ever be able to experience such "old guys" ...

AND many old wines start "over apogee" but can be great drinks after a few hours ... !!!
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#28 Post by Dennis Kanagie » May 1st, 2016, 6:02 am

Gerhard P. wrote: BUT are still showing interesting components as complex tertiaer aromas like wet leaves, moose and old mushrooms,
having an orange or browning colour, showing tiny signs of oxidation in the background, but can still be enjoyed at the table ... or being an interesting topic for discussion ...
I would call them "past apogee" but not "totally over the hill, shot or dead" ....
Moose and mushrooms sounds like something you'd pair with wine, not the actual wine. [shock.gif]

Personally, chocolate moose is my favorite. [snort.gif]
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#29 Post by Gerhard P. » May 1st, 2016, 6:11 am

Dennis Kanagie wrote:
Gerhard P. wrote: BUT are still showing interesting components as complex tertiaer aromas like wet leaves, moose and old mushrooms,
having an orange or browning colour, showing tiny signs of oxidation in the background, but can still be enjoyed at the table ... or being an interesting topic for discussion ...
I would call them "past apogee" but not "totally over the hill, shot or dead" ....
Moose and mushrooms sounds like something you'd pair with wine, not the actual wine. [shock.gif]

Personally, chocolate moose is my favorite. [snort.gif]
You´re right - I meant "moss" (not moose)
Going to edit it above ....

(sorry, English is not my mother tongue)
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#30 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » May 1st, 2016, 6:16 am

To me, "over the hill" means devoid of pleasure on any level: hedonistic or intellectual. And, it's never an "either or".

In my years of collecting, I've never had a bottle of red wine I consider "over the hill". (Some whites have oxidized into oblivion , for sure, but they are usually flawed or required sooner drinking). Usually, people use "over the hill" for older wines they've mishandled before it gets to their mouths. It is much more pleasing and convenient to blame the wine, rather than the handling. It makes the person who has just spent a ton of money on a wine feel better about the waste of money.

People who want to drink older wines (for me that is older than 20 years old at a minimum), need to have a strategy and understand their own goals: I am not looking for primary fruit, but some interesting component from the passage of time itself added to the mix. But, a handling strategy is also crucial. I read of some experiences on WB and laugh about how the process is ruined with a lack of handling strategy.

I think the "slow ox" strategy does nothing much, but it doesn't likely hurt anything for the same reason. I am a believer in the vital importance of both cleaning the wines of sediment before serving and providing a "sensible" amount of aeration. "Sensible" is all semantics, and I have no rigid regimen to offer.

But, when I have a "bad" experience, I never look to the older wine as being at fault UNLESS I have done what I can to optimize its performance. If I have done that, there is almost always some pleasure to be gleaned, maybe more intellectual, but that is why people age wines, too...for the intellectual pleasure and lessons and rewards. Goals must be realistic and understood by all of us.

And, most often, when I think a wine is "bad" or "over the hill", aeration -- after cleaning of sediment --will bring life to it...if I am open minded and patient...and don't rush to judgment.

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#31 Post by Keith Levenberg » May 1st, 2016, 6:22 am

Gerhard P. wrote:
Corey N. wrote: ....

So what distinguishing characteristics make a wine over the hill/shot/past it's prime/etc.?
Well, I do think there is a great difference between "over the hill" and "past apogee/prime" ...
Maybe it is a language thing, but I would regard these terms as completely synonymous. The "apogee/prime" would represent the summit of the hill in the "over the hill" idiom. So over the hill literally means past prime. It does not mean dead or diseased, as can be attested by those "over the hill" coffee mugs they sell as gag gifts for birthdays. So chemical flaws like oxidation or maderization are not what I would put in the "over the hill" zone, but in the "DOA" zone.

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#32 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » May 1st, 2016, 6:30 am

Well, to me "over the hill" implies an inability to rescue such a wine....given the momentum. Sort of like the Temptations sang: Like a snowball rolling down the side of a snow covered hill, it's growing. No stopping its descent.

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#33 Post by Gerhard P. » May 1st, 2016, 7:59 am

Keith Levenberg wrote:
Gerhard P. wrote:
Corey N. wrote: ....

So what distinguishing characteristics make a wine over the hill/shot/past it's prime/etc.?
Well, I do think there is a great difference between "over the hill" and "past apogee/prime" ...
Maybe it is a language thing, but I would regard these terms as completely synonymous. The "apogee/prime" would represent the summit of the hill in the "over the hill" idiom. So over the hill literally means past prime. It does not mean dead or diseased, as can be attested by those "over the hill" coffee mugs they sell as gag gifts for birthdays. So chemical flaws like oxidation or maderization are not what I would put in the "over the hill" zone, but in the "DOA" zone.
My understanding is (in English as well as in German) "over the hill" means on the other side of the hill already again in flat land ....
When a wine is just over peak (apogee) there´s still a long way downhill on the other side (literally) ... which is still more important because
a) it is very hard to know for sure where/when the peak is ...
b) some types of wines can have more than one peak ...
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#34 Post by dteng » May 1st, 2016, 8:25 am

Usually when they complain about aching joints, receding hair, enlarged prostate...

...oh wait, I thought you said wino.
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#35 Post by Richard Albert » May 1st, 2016, 9:15 am

Over the hill=no longer at peak, in decline---leaving peak and decline, subjective determinations, TBD by each drinker analyzing to the best of their experience and sensory capabilities and judgement by personal preferences.
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#36 Post by S. Stevenson » May 1st, 2016, 9:24 am

Even if an old/past it wine is not drinkable, the bouquet often enticing/pleasurable. For that reason alone, it has value.
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Uhhhh....

#37 Post by TomHill » May 1st, 2016, 9:41 am

dteng wrote:Usually when they complain about aching joints, receding hair, enlarged prostate...

...oh wait, I thought you said wino.

Uhhhhhhh...Dan...now we're hitting close to home here!! [snort.gif]

I propose we choose anuther term than "over the hill". That's a little to close for comfort.

To me....a "too old" wine is one that, in addition to no longer offering sensory pleasure, no longer
offers any intellectual pleasure as well. I've had plenty of older Qupe or EdSt wines that are on
the tired & dried-out side.....but you can still hear Bob or Steve speaking to us thru the wine.

I don't think that "oxidation" is necessarily bad. I've had plenty of old wines that were a murky brown (oxidation),
yet still offered up lots of pleasurable aromas & tastes. We accept oxidation in sherry & rancio wines.

I'd offer a few more thoughts..but I gotta go rub BenGay on my knees!!!!
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#38 Post by johngonzales » May 1st, 2016, 11:51 am

S. Stevenson wrote:Even if an old/past it wine is not drinkable, the bouquet often enticing/pleasurable. For that reason alone, it has value.
Man, I wish you lived near me. I'd have a lot of wine to give you upon opening. If a wine isn't drinkable, I might give it a quick return whiff after tasting it, but that's it for me and renders it basically worthless. In fact, it's worse than worthless because even as I've opened another bottle I'm bitter about the whole process of buying/waiting on the previous sucky bottle.
Happened to us last night. We popped a 99 Mondavi Tokalon Fume that was undrinkable (which is worse than over-the-hill to me). Went safe and just popped a 2012 Ferrari Carano Rsv Chard. Then moved on to reds and opened a 97 Spottswoode. Over the hill. Still mildly enjoyable, but a huge disappointment. Note that I do suspect provenance issues on it as it was an auction lot and all have been mediocre, while some other bottles I've had from elsewhere have been better. Again, had to play it safe and just open a 10/11/12 Opus Overture. But the whole wine night was compromised by the two over-the-hill bottles which cast some doubt on one's buying/holding strategies.

Btw, to me, while there are no clear definitions, over-the-hill is worse than simply past prime. Also, to me, prime is a wider spot on a curve than apogee or even peak. To me the apogee or peak might be the ideal approximate year to drink a red. While it's prime might be a longer period where it is still very good, that might encompass another year (or so at least) on each side of the one year apogee. Over-the-hill, to me, refers to the even later period where the enjoyment level is significantly less than the period when the wine is simply just over it's absolute peak. Of course I realize that everyone else has their own definitions.

As an aside, I had 99 Fisher Coach Insignia last week that I bought on release that was "past prime" but not over-the-hill. We all drank it but were disappointed in it and left some in the bottle. Unfortunately that has been the case in more than half of the 99 Cabs I've opened in the past year or two.

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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#39 Post by Alan Eden » May 1st, 2016, 12:08 pm

Dennis Kanagie wrote:
Joe B wrote:Its subjective. Lots of people want an old, over aged, senile wine. Mand they think they are GREAT.

Good for them too because at some point i will own some old overaged wines i forgot to get around to and post them on commerce corner.
Are you Alan's cousin? neener
13 Saxum Broken Stones tonight, any concern it will be over the hill ?

Slow cooking some spiced brisket, cheesey mash and mushrooms

Looking forward to it
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#40 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » May 1st, 2016, 12:11 pm

Corey N. wrote:So it's not a lack of fruit, it's just personal taste?
.
Yes. Personal taste.

ETA: if you ever see me use the term "over the hill" I mean "past prime"; I rarely use the term, however.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#41 Post by larry schaffer » May 1st, 2016, 12:17 pm

To many on this board, who regularly drink 'older' wines, the use of this term will be totally different than say, a newbie, that is not used to drinking older wines.

And I agree that the term 'Over the Hill' and 'DOA' are really two different things. To me, over the hill implies that it is 'past its prime' but that does not necessarily mean the wine offers no pleasure. DOA on the other hand implies that the wine offers zero pleasure - other than the fact that there is some 'pleasure' in knowing that you are drinking something crafted years/decades ago . . .

Cheers.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#42 Post by Merrill Lindquist » May 1st, 2016, 12:39 pm

That's pretty much it to me, Larry.

I used to enjoy the more mature taste of Napa Cabernets more than I do now. I drank them with regularity (thank you, to my mentor) but have since focused more and more on newer wines (particularly my own, as a producer...kind of have to do that).

It is difficult to "call it" when something is at its peak - much easier to say when it is in a good/prime drinking zone. How do we know when they will slide off? We don't. At least I don't. But if it is knocking you out, and you only have one more bottle, then drink up! For those who can afford a 6 or 12 pack of something, it is a great learning experience to watch the evolution of a wine. But you can get fooled by the "cha-cha" that vintages can do. 6 years ago my 2004 tasted fully mature, and from a number of storage sources. Now, for the last 2 years, its expression is younger. Again, from a number of storage facilities.

Fascinating stuff.
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At What Point is a Wine "Over the Hill"?

#43 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » May 2nd, 2016, 5:57 am

over the hill



old and past one's prime

Doesn't add much to the mix...as it still begs the question of what "prime" is...

Some of us think "prime" starts for some wines (RB) at 20...others think that most wines are shot by then....

All semantics and personal taste, it seems.

To me, it is mostly an excuse for poor cleaning and handling when a wine doesn't show well (understandably)....and cleaning of old wines is crucial to a good showing, no matter how you do it. (which is another reason "slow ox", to me, is pop and pour essentially: you then get to "play with" the sediment from aging...and try to keep it from marring the drinking experience.)

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