There are various signs of becoming a wine geek - or well-educated enthusiast; a fondness for Riesling and sherry is one, as is a bite from the infamous Pinot-bug.
The one that seems to get mentioned least, however, but which really sorts the uber-geeks from the mere wannabees, is a love of aged wines.
As wine ages, it gains something - a rounded mellowness, complexity and decaying, hedonistic aromas - that nothing else quite has. Rather like Mick Jagger performing Jumpin' Jack Flash on stage in his 60s, it will still have the fire and energy of its young-turk youth, but also possess a mellower self assurance and sophistication.
Bordeaux is perhaps the most well-known wine for aging, but Rioja can be a better-value alternative to the upper levels of the crus classes - Victor Urrutia, CEO of CVNE says of aging Rioja "I think Rioja reaches full maturity much quicker than Bordeaux, but has the virtue of staying on its plateau for a very long time."
These two wines are both approachable now, yet have the stuffing to keep improving for a few more years at least.
Contino Reserva 2007 (£22.99 from The Wine Society, BBR, Waitrose, Tesco, Harrods, Planet of The Grapes)
85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 2.5% Mazuelo, 2.5% Grenache - aged for two years in French and American oak; pleasing ripe red fruits, sweet vanilla and a savoury finish. Fresh acidity, well-integrated fine tannins - very harmonious, well-balanced and drinking nicely now. Easy to enjoy yet also serious.
Good. Match with roast red meats or casseroles.
Imperial Gran Reserva 2005 (£26.99 Tanners, Waitrose, Majestic, BBR, The Wine Society, D Byrne)
85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo - from 20yo low-yielding bush vines; ripe red fruits, liquorice and some aged gaminess; plum, tobacco and sweet vanilla spice on the palate. Substantial, yet well-integrated and harmonious with fine, perfectly ripe tannins and well-balanced acidity. Drinking nicely now, it will continue to improve and develop with age.
Very Good. Match the gaminess with venison steak.
Both wines provided for review; the 2004 Imperial (my review here) was named Wine Spectator's wine of 2013.
Other related articles
Two aged Riojas - the CWB Rioja-off
Viña Real Gran Reserva 2005
CVNE - website, twitter