Cellar Defenders

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AHB
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Cellar Defenders

Post by AHB » 21:51 Tue 01 Sep 2020

It's a theme we've explored on a number of occasions in the past, but I'm interested to learn what people are currently using as cellar defenders. Right now I am working my way through a series of one off young LBV and VP halves and bottles which I have picked up over the last couple of years as curiosities — producers I've not seen before or vintages which I've not tasted before.

For example, I've just opened a Muscat 2018 "Very, very sweet wine" from Adam Mason in Stellenbosch and I'm debating what to open tomorrow. Candidates include Churchill Fine White NV and Noval LB bottled - I estimate - in the 1980s.
Top Ports in 2019: Niepoort VV (1960s bottling) and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
Top Ports in 2020 (so far): Croft 1945 and Niepoort VV (1960s bottling)

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by winesecretary » 22:44 Tue 01 Sep 2020

Like AHB I have a decent number of single bottles of usually inexpensive esoterica (in my case usually purchased either from auction or from Garrafeira Nacional). And, I occasionally go down a rabbit hole, such as asking myself how the 2016s are getting along in half, and hoovering up a bunch from VWAP for comparative purposes. But I also have classical cellar defenders in the form of multiple bottles of each of the following intended for fairly near-term drinking. 1996 TV (halves), 1998 ChAA, 2000 Sainsbury TTD, 2005 Croft Roeda (halves), 2007 M&S, 2011 M&S, Niepoort Crusted Bottled 2014, Niepoort 2015 LBV.

In fact most of what I drink is still red table wine, for which cellar defenders range from the classical (house claret - currently Chateau Brown Lamartine 2009 - and house burgundy - currently Chapuis & Chapuis Mercurey 1er Cru Clos l'Eveque 2014) to the weird and wonderful (and, often, deliberately not very alcoholic - this evening, Catherine and Pierre Breton's 2018 Grolleau at 10.5%).

I also have a bottle of Finger Lakes Seneca Shores Amulet NV Reserve 'Port'. If it was from Oporto it would be a 'Crusted Bottled 2018'. A kind gift from the owner. Purists might consider this to be 'the 'port' against which all the other bottles I own defend me'. But it's actually pretty decent.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by JacobH » 12:10 Wed 02 Sep 2020

AHB wrote:
21:51 Tue 01 Sep 2020
Right now I am working my way through a series of one off young LBV and VP halves and bottles which I have picked up over the last couple of years as curiosities — producers I've not seen before or vintages which I've not tasted before.
It’s funny to see how different our tastes are: for me new producers and vintages are a special treat which I will only open when I am in the mood to enjoy them properly!

I don’t think I’ve had a “cellar defender” in the sense of a single port for which I have had stacks of bottles which I drink to stop me drinking something else for a very long time. As a result, if I don’t want to drink anything special, I will probably open something like a Graham or Taylor LBV; a young-ish Fonseca, Croft or Taylor SQVP; or either the Churchill Dry White or Cockburn White, depending on what sort of Port I fancy. But this rather wide category means I very rarely get through a big quantity of any specific one over the course of the year. For example, I thought I had drunk “lots” of the Graham 2006 LBV but I’ve only had 5 bottles and three glasses over the last 10 years!
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by rich_n » 15:48 Wed 02 Sep 2020

I’ve been working on cellar defenders as I’ve been building up my VP collection, and mostly it’s similar to what has already been discussed. I have been intrigued by unfiltered LBVs and crusted ports, so there’s a heavy lean towards those, but I’ve also started trying 10yo tawnies from various different producers to see if I can find one that I really like. Poças is out front there at the moment, however I have a couple of bottles I’m intrigued by that I haven’t opened yet.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by uncle tom » 17:01 Wed 02 Sep 2020

As I'm drinking far more at home this year, and far less socially, my normal allocations for home drinking are being stretched.

I have a spreadsheet to ration my allocations of VP and LBV, and as infill, am drinking some ten yr old half bottles of Quevedo reserve tawny, which is now very nicely smoothed out, and also a large measure of my own FUR (finest unfiltered reserve). I also have some half bottles of Taylor Select for snacking.

Tonight however, I will be popping a 500mL bottle of Taylor 10yr old, bottled in 2009, which I bought nine six packs of ten years ago at Strakers, and still have 32 bottles left..
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by CPR 1 » 20:09 Wed 02 Sep 2020

Niepoort Crusted is my go to Port at the moment for cellar defence, supported by random LBV / SQVP (reduced from Waitrose or Sainsbury’s) and 1/2 bottles. I really do really rather like the Niepoort Crusted though....

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Re: RE: Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by JacobH » 20:40 Wed 02 Sep 2020


uncle tom wrote:I have a spreadsheet to ration my allocations of VP and LBV, and as infill, am drinking some ten yr old half bottles of Quevedo reserve tawny, which is now very nicely smoothed out, and also a large measure of my own FUR (finest unfiltered reserve). I also have some half bottles of Taylor Select for snacking.

Tonight however, I will be popping a 500mL bottle of Taylor 10yr old, bottled in 2009, which I bought nine six packs of ten years ago at Strakers, and still have 32 bottles left..
In light of the reference to two lots of 10-year-old-10-year-old tawny, do you ever drink any Port that hasn't spent some serious time aging in a bottle?!
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by winesecretary » 21:26 Wed 02 Sep 2020

@ CPR1 - I'm with you on the Niepoort Crusted. So good that only an appeal to my better nature persuaded me to post a tasting note, as opposed to silently buying up the world supply.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by rich_n » 00:20 Thu 03 Sep 2020

I only have Dow’s and Graham’s crusted, acquired over the last year in various supermarket sales bonanzas. I shall look out for the Niepoort!

In honour of the cellar defender discussion I’ve opened a bottle of Graham’s 10 year old tawny, which I sadly haven’t had time to cellar for 10 years in bottle. It is rather good, more cherries early in the palate than others that I’ve tried.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by uncle tom » 07:01 Thu 03 Sep 2020

do you ever drink any Port that hasn't spent some serious time aging in a bottle?!
Very rarely these days. Around 98% of my port consumption is aged wine with an overall average of somewhere between 25 and 30 years bottle age.
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by rich_n » 11:40 Thu 03 Sep 2020

uncle tom wrote:
do you ever drink any Port that hasn't spent some serious time aging in a bottle?!
Very rarely these days. Around 98% of my port consumption is aged wine with an overall average of somewhere between 25 and 30 years bottle age.
Do you find much changes in those 10 year old tawnies when they’ve spend a decade in bottle?

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by JacobH » 11:48 Thu 03 Sep 2020

If you'll forgive me for answering a question aimed at Tom, I think it can be quite beneficial in terms of softening and mellowing a young tawny. In some respects it's not dissimilar to a garrafeira- some time in casks and then some time in glass.
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by uncle tom » 12:05 Thu 03 Sep 2020

Do you find much changes in those 10 year old tawnies when they’ve spend a decade in bottle?
Standard tawnies don't go south after a decade in bottle, but they only mellow to a moderate degree. Rich reserve tawnies, like the Quevedo, are very raw when first bottled, yet bottle age quite quickly, becoming much smoother and mellow. Thereafter they become pretty much bullet proof - bottles of quality tawny still drink very well after half a century.

When it comes to the indication of age tawnies, and colheitas, there is quite a variation between the producers. Taylor and Noval age quite well, as do virtually all the offerings from the Portuguese houses. Niepoort ages very well. However the Symingtons are too brutal with their tawnies - they strip too much out of them. Having had a few disappointments from that stable, I avoid buying tawnies under their brands.
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Andy Velebil » 13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020

JacobH wrote:If you'll forgive me for answering a question aimed at Tom, I think it can be quite beneficial in terms of softening and mellowing a young tawny. In some respects it's not dissimilar to a garrafeira- some time in casks and then some time in glass.
It is nothing like a Garrafeira. Which is basically an LBV stored in a large bottle for extended periods.

Almost all tawnies are produced and intended to be consumed within a few years of bottling. Sure you can age them a very long time. But you lose what the producer intended them to be like. If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by JacobH » 13:41 Thu 03 Sep 2020

Andy Velebil wrote:
13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Almost all tawnies are produced and intended to be consumed within a few years of bottling. Sure you can age them a very long time. But you lose what the producer intended them to be like. If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.
If we go by “what the producer intended” wouldn’t we be drinking all of our Q. d. Malevedos or Canais at about 12 years’ old, since the Symingtons’ tell us they release it when it is ready to drink? ;-)
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Andy Velebil » 14:09 Thu 03 Sep 2020

JacobH wrote:
13:41 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Andy Velebil wrote:
13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Almost all tawnies are produced and intended to be consumed within a few years of bottling. Sure you can age them a very long time. But you lose what the producer intended them to be like. If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.
If we go by “what the producer intended” wouldn’t we be drinking all of our Q. d. Malevedos or Canais at about 12 years’ old, since the Symingtons’ tell us they release it when it is ready to drink? ;-)
Good point. A ruby being bottle aged and for how long is a also a personal preference. I don't mind Ruby's, and even red table wine, that has been aged in bottle longer than what most care for. Are they at their best anymore, no. But the two really can't be compared for the sake of this discussion. As one is meant for bottle aging and one was aged in cask and when someone thought they were finally ready they were bottled to drink relatively soon.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by uncle tom » 14:32 Thu 03 Sep 2020

The producers have to work within the constraints presented to them. They can't make a mellow wine, as that is only achieved through bottle aging, and they also know that there is no consumer tradition of laying down tawnies to mature. As a consequence, it doesn't do their sales much good if they shout from the rooftops that their tawnies will be better after a few years cellaring.

So rather than say that they intend their wines to be drunk soon after bottling, it is more accurate to say that it is inevitable that most will be, and that they therefore have to make the best of that. Compared to an aged bottle, a freshly bottled tawny has a very rough edge to it. There's not much getting round that, although I suspect it motivates the Symingtons' heavy treatment of them.

Most producers don't keep library stock of their tawnies, and whenever I've repatriated an aged bottle for them to try, the reaction has always been positive - and on one occasion, one of outright astonishment.

Next time you're in the UK Andy, get hold of a freshly bottled Ferreira Duke de Braganza 20yr, and I''ll pull one that was bottled in 1979, and we'll see which one most people prefer..
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I shall be sober and you will still be ugly - W.S. Churchill

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Andy Velebil » 15:29 Thu 03 Sep 2020

uncle tom wrote:
14:32 Thu 03 Sep 2020


Next time you're in the UK Andy, get hold of a freshly bottled Ferreira Duke de Braganza 20yr, and I''ll pull one that was bottled in 1979, and we'll see which one most people prefer..
Sounds like a plan. :D

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Glenn E. » 18:51 Thu 03 Sep 2020

Andy Velebil wrote:
13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020
If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.
It's this kind of hyperbole that diminishes the credibility of your argument.

The only Port - ruby or tawny - that I've had that could be accurately described as "flat and sweet" has been basic/reserve rubies and tawnies, or the occasional very old Vintage Port that's long past its prime. Age any Port long enough and yes, it will become flat and sweet. The time frames being discussed here won't do that to anything other than a basic/reserve ruby or tawny, though.

Describing a 40-year old that has been bottle aged as "flat and sweet" is nothing more than a Trumpism. If you say it often enough and loudly enough, it must be true right?

Tawnies seem to follow a pattern similar to what Vintage Ports display as they age. Once bottled, they're very good for several years, then they start to change and go into a funk for a while. After some time, they re-emerge. Different. Changed. Bottle-matured.

Whether or not you like that change is personal preference. But it is not at all accurate to claim that they're "flat and sweet" once they've been bottle aged. Just because you don't like how they've changed does not mean that it's wrong.
Last edited by Glenn E. on 00:12 Sat 12 Sep 2020, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Andy Velebil » 19:10 Thu 03 Sep 2020

Glenn E. wrote:
18:51 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Andy Velebil wrote:
13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020
If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.
It's this kind of hyperbole that diminishes the credibility of your argument.

The only Port - ruby or tawny - that I've had that could be accurately described as "flat and sweet" has been basic/reserve rubies and tawnies, or the occasional very old Vintage Port that's long past its prime. Age any Port long enough and yes, it will become flat and sweet. The time frames being discussed here won't do that to anything other than a basic/reserve ruby or tawny, though.

Describing a 40-year old that has been bottle aged as "flat and sweet" is nothing more than a Trumpism. If you say it often enough and loudly enough, it must be true right?

Tawnies seem to follow a pattern similar to what Vintage Ports display as they age. Once bottled, they're very good for several years, then they start to change and go into a funk for a while. After some time, they re-emerge. Different. Changed. Bottle-matured.

Whether or not you like that change is personal preference. But it is not at all accurate to claim that they're "flat and sweet" once they've been bottle aged. Just because you don't like how they've changed does not mean that it's wrong.
No politics. Would you prefer the term cloying? Means basically the same thing, but if makes you more happy...

And you're simply applying your like of older bottled tawny's that have become cloying, to my general dislike of them. Regardless, I don't care if someone likes them or not, that's not the discussion here. The fact remains most become "flat and sweet", cloying if you prefer, with extended aging.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Glenn E. » 21:24 Thu 03 Sep 2020

Andy Velebil wrote:
19:10 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Glenn E. wrote:
18:51 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Andy Velebil wrote:
13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020
If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.
It's this kind of hyperbole that diminishes your credibility.

The only Port - ruby or tawny - that I've had that could be accurately described as "flat and sweet" has been basic/reserve rubies and tawnies, or the occasional very old Vintage Port that's long past its prime. Age any Port long enough and yes, it will become flat and sweet. The time frames being discussed here won't do that to anything other than a basic/reserve ruby or tawny, though.

Describing a 40-year old that has been bottle aged as "flat and sweet" is nothing more than a Trumpism. If you say it often enough and loudly enough, it must be true right?

Tawnies seem to follow a pattern similar to what Vintage Ports display as they age. Once bottled, they're very good for several years, then they start to change and go into a funk for a while. After some time, they re-emerge. Different. Changed. Bottle-matured.

Whether or not you like that change is personal preference. But it is not at all accurate to claim that they're "flat and sweet" once they've been bottle aged. Just because you don't like how they've changed does not mean that it's wrong.
No politics. Would you prefer the term cloying? Means basically the same thing, but if makes you more happy...

And you're simply applying your like of older bottled tawny's that have become cloying, to my general dislike of them. Regardless, I don't care if someone likes them or not, that's not the discussion here. The fact remains most become "flat and sweet", cloying if you prefer, with extended aging.
Come on, Andy, cloying does not have the same implications as "flat and sweet" and you know it. Flat and sweet implies that the Port is dead. It also implies that it is simple. Cloying implies that the Port is excessively sweet and rich. It also implies that it is heavy. They're not even close to the same thing.

And the difference between the way we approach this is that I always make sure to explain both sides, explain that most producers claim that their tawnies should be consumed as close to the bottling date as possible, but that not everyone believes it and that each person should make up their own mind. I then explain how tawnies change when they age to help the reader understand whether or not they might like those changes. I give the "party line" but then explain that it's not necessarily true and that the reader should see what they think for themselves.

You just say the need to be drunk right away or they'll go flat.

Personally I think it's mostly marketing. Producers want you to drink your tawnies ASAP and buy more. It's also "tradition" and so they keep saying it. Most of them - as Tom points out - have never bothered to try one of their own tawnies with a good amount of bottle age on it, so how would they know any different? It's a self-perpetuating myth. Aided by the aging arc that all Port seems to go through in the same way - too little bottle age will result in an unsatisfying result, and that even applies to Vintage Port and unfiltered LBV. I.e. the Port will be in the "teenage funk" that we've all experienced many times.

I don't say it diminishes the credibility of your argument because we disagree. I say it because you gave a one-sided hyperbolic explanation. And you do that fairly regularly on this topic. Am I sensitive to it? Sure. Does that make me wrong? Not at all.
Last edited by Glenn E. on 00:13 Sat 12 Sep 2020, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by winesecretary » 23:23 Thu 03 Sep 2020

I have many times over the past quarter-century or so encountered on Madeira absolutist statements by wine makers that, when challenged with documentary (or bottled) evidence to the contrary they row back from in a way that makes that clear that the absolutist statements were simplifications for the English-speaking market. I think the 'you should drink tawny fairly soon after it's bottled' thing may ultimately be something similar. It's a good general rule but a long way from a universal truth.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Andy Velebil » 03:51 Fri 04 Sep 2020

Glenn E. wrote:
Andy Velebil wrote:
19:10 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Glenn E. wrote:
18:51 Thu 03 Sep 2020
Andy Velebil wrote:
13:08 Thu 03 Sep 2020
If you want something that is flat and sweet, age then. If you want that crisp perceived acidity giving it a fresh feel, drink young.

It’s like a can of Coke. When you open it it’s crisp and refreshing. Leave it open for a few days and it’s sugary and flat.
It's this kind of hyperbole that diminishes your credibility.

The only Port - ruby or tawny - that I've had that could be accurately described as "flat and sweet" has been basic/reserve rubies and tawnies, or the occasional very old Vintage Port that's long past its prime. Age any Port long enough and yes, it will become flat and sweet. The time frames being discussed here won't do that to anything other than a basic/reserve ruby or tawny, though.

Describing a 40-year old that has been bottle aged as "flat and sweet" is nothing more than a Trumpism. If you say it often enough and loudly enough, it must be true right?

Tawnies seem to follow a pattern similar to what Vintage Ports display as they age. Once bottled, they're very good for several years, then they start to change and go into a funk for a while. After some time, they re-emerge. Different. Changed. Bottle-matured.

Whether or not you like that change is personal preference. But it is not at all accurate to claim that they're "flat and sweet" once they've been bottle aged. Just because you don't like how they've changed does not mean that it's wrong.
No politics. Would you prefer the term cloying? Means basically the same thing, but if makes you more happy...

And you're simply applying your like of older bottled tawny's that have become cloying, to my general dislike of them. Regardless, I don't care if someone likes them or not, that's not the discussion here. The fact remains most become "flat and sweet", cloying if you prefer, with extended aging.
Come on, Andy, cloying does not have the same implications as "flat and sweet" and you know it. Flat and sweet implies that the Port is dead. It also implies that it is simple. Cloying implies that the Port is excessively sweet and rich. It also implies that it is heavy. They're not even close to the same thing.

And the difference between the way we approach this is that I always make sure to explain both sides, explain that most producers claim that their tawnies should be consumed as close to the bottling date as possible, but that not everyone believes it and that each person should make up their own mind. I then explain how tawnies change when they age to help the reader understand whether or not they might like those changes. I give the "party line" but then explain that it's not necessarily true and that the reader should see what they think for themselves.

You just say the need to be drunk right away or they'll go flat.

Personally I think it's mostly marketing. Producers want you to drink your tawnies ASAP and buy more. It's also "tradition" and so they keep saying it. Most of them - as Tom points out - have never bothered to try one of their own tawnies with a good amount of bottle age on it, so how would they know any different? It's a self-perpetuating myth. Aided by the aging arc that all Port seems to go through in the same way - too little bottle age will result in an unsatisfying result, and that even applies to Vintage Port and unfiltered LBV. I.e. the Port will be in the "teenage funk" that we've all experienced many times.

I don't say it diminishes the credibility of your argument because we disagree. I say it because you gave a one-sided hyperbolic explanation. And you do that fairly regularly on this topic. Am I sensitive to it? Sure. Does that make me wrong? Not at all.
if took a Prime 30 day dry aged steak and cooked it to beyond well done because that’s how I like it; I’m quite sure you and probably every other cook and butcher would say I destroyed that piece of meat by cooking it too what I like. Just saying.

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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by uncle tom » 04:27 Fri 04 Sep 2020

cloying
Each to his own, but my interpretation of the word 'cloying' is an excess of sugar that has no integration in the wine. It is very much a characteristic of young tawnies rather than aged ones, and another reason why I prefer to drink them matured.
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Re: Cellar Defenders

Post by Andy Velebil » 04:31 Fri 04 Sep 2020

uncle tom wrote:
cloying
Each to his own, but my interpretation of the word 'cloying' is an excess of sugar that has no integration in the wine. It is very much a characteristic of young tawnies rather than aged ones, and another reason why I prefer to drink them matured.
Basically. In wine it’s accepting meaning is lacking perceived acidity and pronounced sugary taste.

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