The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Regrets, Radikon and Evolution

The too-short story of a bottle of wine

Having heard that my bottle of 1994 Radikon Merlot was in danger of evolving past its peak, I uncorked my bottle to enjoy it. The wine was pleasant upon opening, emitting scents of dried strawberries, along with Christmas spices and tea leaves. The wine felt initially giving and complex on the palate and possessed minerality and a vibrant acidity, a sign the grapes were picked early. I noted a presence of a green vegetal quality—also an indication of an early harvest— that was initially kept in balance by the wonderful dried strawberry notes. Within a few minutes the wine changed, the front and mid-palate began picking up bitterness from the seeds, while the back palate reeled from the explosion of long and intense fruit flavors. This was an intriguing development; in a wine of lesser quality, fruit flavors appear on the palate initially, and recede to be replaced by the bitter phenols from the seeds. However, the Radikon was doing the reverse.

“Where was this heading?” I asked myself. There was no denying that this light-bodied wine packed a powerful strawberry wallop in the initial moments in the glass. I wondered, “Would this wine reveal more or would it end soon, having shown its all?”  It seemed too much to ask from a sixteen-year-old wine for its performance to remain at this intense level.  Eventually, I regretfully observed, the Radikon’s delightful dried fruit flavors dissipated, leaving behind the bitter notes of the seeds. I wondered what more this wine could have expressed had it been opened earlier.

And yet, wine evolves. Two hours later a new aroma began emanating from my glass. “What was this?” I thought, “Surely the wine had gone past its way.” I tasted again and found a wine that was coming into itself. The flavors and the acids had become integrated and expressive of cherries, in a tangy, savory, umami way; the bitter tannins were now non-existent. The green quality had also dissipated and was replaced by a musky quality. It was a delicious revelation.

Wine evolves, as the truism goes, and this bottle of Radikon proves the veracity of that idea. Indeed, I’m reminded that getting to know a wine means having more than just one bottle of it. A bottle holds only a small portion of the entire vintage. Each bottle upon opening tells the story of where it came from, and where it may go. To truly know the wine and the vintage you’d have to possess several bottles from the vintage and experience them over the course of time.

This ’94 Merlot’s performance indicates it could have been cellared longer. However, I have no regrets about opening it. Rather, having experienced this Radikon, I regret not having more of it—and being able to taste more of it over time. Wine evolves, and remarkable wine evolves remarkably. Unquestionably, this ’94 Radikon is a remarkable wine.

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