Cult of Maturity

Cult of Maturity

Organic Wine Tasting

Friday 15th September


£22 in advance only

(early booking advised)


The modern world is obsessed with youth. Job adverts prize ‘dynamic, energetic and positive’ candidates above all else, and processions of young wines promise ‘fresh and fruity flavours’. You might assume maturity has no value.

Age may make us less energetic and positive – but it can imbue us with knowledge, circumspection, evaluative ability. What old grape vines lose in productivity, they make up for in quality and concentration of flavour. And though a wine may lose its fresh fruit quality as it matures, some may develop complex, additional, often savoury flavours. The tannins of a red wine can soften, making it more approachable than in youth, more mellow and rounded… less “tight”.

But like people, not all wines improve with age. An insipid wine won’t develop power with time in the bottle. Similarly, dry, high acid whites prized for their ability to refresh (most Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio) are best enjoyed young.

Generally speaking, most reds last longer than most whites, as the antioxidants from the grape skins and the tannins in the wine act as natural preservatives. But like all general rules, there are many specific exceptions. We will begin our tasting with two Rieslings,a white variety with great ageing potential. The first offers the crunchy, zesty style of youth, and the second shows what can happen to Riesling as it bottle ages… it develops a distinctive petrol aroma.

And then onwards to a flight of Riojas. A ‘Joven’, or ‘young’ Rioja, all dark berried fruits, from Bodegas Bagordi, and then a triptych of wines from innovative producer Navarrsotillo.

Whereas most Riojas are a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano (and sometimes Mazuelo), Navarrsotillo have chosen to make three different wines, highlighting the different characteristics of the different varieties. We will taste two Crianzas, one made from Garnacha and one from Tempranillo, before finishing with a Reserva made from 100% Graciano.

To be classified as ‘Crianza’, Riojas must have spent two years ageing, at least one of which must be in oak barrels. Reservas have longer ageing requirements, a minimum of three years, at least one of which must be in oak. The Reserva we’ll be tasting was recently rated ‘outstanding’, and given 95 points by Decanter magazine.

So when to drink mature wines? Most merchants will offer a recommended window. Decanter recommended drinking our Reserva between now and 2024. This time span offers a continuum – for fresher fruit character, drink younger; for a more savoury, complex character, drink older. To see this continuum for yourself, buy two or three bottles of the same wine, the same vintage, and open them a year apart.

But that means I’ll have to store them! Well, don’t panic. You don’t need custom built cold storage. Ideal conditions are cool, and dark, with enough humidity to stop the cork drying out. But all you really need is a wine rack in a room with a fairly constant temperature. Avoid the kitchen! And lie the wine on its side – constant contact with the wine will, again, stop the cork from drying out, and maintain the integrity of the seal.

We will also run an abbreviated version of this tasting at lunchtime, between noon and 1pm (ish) on the same day. This session of Lunchtime Tippling with Tom will feature four wines for £8, allowing you to taste two Rieslings and two Riojas. With lunch available to buy in the cafe afterwards, these sessions are ideal for those who struggle for affordable transport home in the evenings. They are intimate and dialogic affairs, and allow you to taste wine when your palate is cleaner. Reserve your place in the shop or by email.

The Evening’s Wines:

Riesling, Stefan Sander 2016. Rheinhessen, Germany. 12% abv. Shop price £12.25

Served with heritage tomato salad

Riesling, Eugene Meyer 2012. Alsace, France. 12%. £16.95

Served with Biona Goats’ Cheese

Rioja Joven, Usoa de Bagordi 2015. 14%. Grape varieties: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano. £9.50

Served with roasted, pureéd peppers & paprika

Rioja Tempranillo Crianza, Navarrsotillo 2013. 14%. £12.25

Served with Calon Wen Extra Mature Cheddar

Rioja Garnacha Crianza, Navarrsotillo 2012. 14.5%. £13.95 Served with Baba Ganoush

Rioja Graciano Reserva, Navarrsotillo 2010. 14.5%. £21

Served with oven baked mushrooms and tamari

All food organic

Sourced from Folland Organics, row A Norwich Market, & the Greenhouse shop. Bread from Timberhill Bakery.

Menu may vary depending on seasonal availability. Vegan alternatives available on request. PLEASE advise when booking.

Feedback from our ‘What are they talking about?’ tasting:

‘Interesting comparisons & contrasts’

‘Really instructive’

‘One of the best ones I’ve attended. Well done!’