from the world's big
You're Doing it Wrong! The Legacy Wine
Buying California Cabernet to share with your newborn on her 21st birthday? You're doing it wrong....
Young couple walks into a wine store. They wander around in that "Not-looking-for-anything-specific-over-here!" kind of way. Coy but focused. Avoiding my attention, but in need of it.
"Is there anything I can help y'all find?"
"Yes," the groom says assertively. " We just had a daughter recently and I'm looking for a wine we can drink with her on her 21st birthday. We want to share our passion with her!
"Great! Mazel tov! Let's find a good bottle for you! She deserves to the best! Do you have any particular kind of wine in mind?"
Here it comes...wait for it....
"Well, we love California Cabernet, so that's what we want!"
FREEZE! You're doing it wrong.
Wine purchased for a child's 21st birthday is what I call a "Legacy Wine." It's a great idea, but most people do it wrong. There are several pitfalls you can fall into when looking for a Legacy Wine. I'd like to go through each one of the traps and how you can avoid it.
This is one time in your life when professional advice counts! Only good things will happen if you heed it - you'll enjoy the wines more, as will your party guests, and you'll end up a celebrity, an icon, a legend of wine prowess with the kids. Win-win.
Buying the wrong wine, part I
I have nothing against California Cabernet Sauvignon. They make some damn fine wine in the Golden State. It's just not the best choice for a wine you want to store for two decades and then serve to your loved ones.
Plenty of California Cabernets can live 20 years. They aren't festooned with too much alcohol and have sufficient tannin and acid to balance the plethora of fruit. There's only one difficulty - to get the really good ones, the ones that can age gracefully, you have to pay a lot of money. How much? Start at $100, but more likely well over $250.
The fix for this is to find a wine suitable for the task, and frankly, one with better price to quality to longevity ratio - what the boys in the Pentagon call "bang for the buck."
I'm not criticizing the job you're doing as parents. I'm not even criticizing the wine you love the most. I just think there are better wines for the task. Let's get down to business.
Most wine buyers, even seasoned ones, assume that reds age the best. It's not true. If you want long aging wines, whites are your best bet. Whites are also less expensive wines that do the job of aging gracefully without robbing you blind.
Genuine Champagnes are designed and built to last. I've tasted beautiful Champagnes made in the 1970's and they were beautiful - Pineapple, pear, lime fruit out the wazoo, polished, refined, with enough acid to be bright as broad daylight and flavors like biscuits, nuts, caramel and toast in the finish. Some Champagnes aren't released without 10 years of age! Though the better known houses (my favorite is Salon) will last decades, they are expensive. Better to hunt for what's called a "grower" Champagne - wines made by the farmers that supply places like Cristal and Dom Pérignon.
This is a very small appellation from the Loire Valley of France, made with Chenin Blanc. This isn't the cheap bulk wine your (grand)parents drank as California Chablis. This is a powerhouse dry white, with maximum apricot, lime, quince, lemon fruit. Incredibly floral, even at 20 years of age, they take on weight and richness and complexity with a mix of spicy and earthy qualities. Drinking a perfectly aged Savennières is a revelation for the red only drinker! Price? 40-$100 a bottle.
German Rieslings are probably the best Legacy Wines you can find. They will age forever and get better with each passing year. How long, you ask? Well, let's consult Therry Theise (page 113), the man with the most encyclopedic knowledge of the region, its wines, and their potential.
The best legacy Rieslings fall into the Spätlese and Auslese categories, with the former lasting 25 years and the latter 35! These are sweet wines, but after that much age, they will lose the sugar but keep their fruit, while adding complexity other flavors. Don't like sweet wines? Make sure you see both the word "trocken" (dry) on the label, along with either Spätlese or Auslese. These will be ripe, but not sweet.
Still not convinced? Read this excerpt from a review of a 2010 Riesling Auslese, keeping in mind this is without the benefit of aging:
...caramelized peach and mango; concentrated lime and pink grapefruit; honeysuckle, rowan and orange blossom;)...allied to the sort of transparency to stony, saline, smoky, and crystalline nuances....
Yes, please! You can get wines like this for $50 or less. Still set on Napa Cabernet?
100% Syrah, they're are often called the most masculine of wines. They have abundant blackberry, blueberry and black current fruit, tempered by earthy flavors like coffee, licorice, cocoa, and maybe a hit of sweat. Imagine Hermitage wines as teenage football players. When they're young, the testosterone poisoning is annoying. After a few decades, they've grown into fine young men their families can be proud of. How much do these bad boys cost? You can get long-lived wines for $60-100 a bottle.
Barolo and Barbaresco
Named after the Italian villages where they're grown, these wines are made from Nebbiolo. Remember that scene in Sideways? The one where Paul Giamatti so poetically describes how difficult it is to grow Pinot Noir? Pinot Noir is an obedient Mennonite farm girl compared to Nebbiolo's spoiled princess! Never fear - Barolo and Barbaresco producers know how to handle her. The wines are powerful but nuanced explosions of cherry and black raspberry counterbalanced with earthy tar, licorice flavors, graced with rose petal and violets. These wines are transcendent. How much does transcendence cost? $50-75.
California Petite Sirah
If you're looking for a Legacy Wine from California, it's Petite Sirah. Be careful, though: many Petite producers don't build the wines to their full potential, opting to make wines for immediate enjoyment. Petite Sirah from the right place, however, will provide you all the black fruit, graphite, smoke, charcoal flavors you want. Just don't try to drink them early! Patience is required with these wines, and for $45-75 a bottle, it will be fully rewarded.
In about 20 years. Perfect timing!
Buying the wrong wine, part II
OK, now that you have an idea of better wine for the job; how to choose?
You're not psychic. California might be passé by then. They may mock you for drinking that as if it were Mateus rosé! They may ask you when you're going to get hip to the Tonghua appellation in China. They may even prefer beer, in all its glorious varieties, just to spite you! Or...
They may not like wine at all! (The horror! The horror!)
You can't see the future, so what to do?
Buy what you want to drink on their 21st birthday. Your child will be flattered, humbled and impressed by your resolution and discipline in executing a task that took 21 years to accomplish. They won't care (and shouldn't) what it is. It's like being a Jeopardy!contestant; no one will care if you won or lost - they'll just think it was cool you were on the show.
OK, you've selected the best wine for your legacy. You're not done. There are just a few details left to assure success.
Most people don't buy enough wine. True, you'll only need a bottle or two to share with your newly minted adult for the actual party, but you have to buy much more than that - you'll need a case. Here's why.
Wines are like superheroes - what counts is who they were before they got their powers. Once they're transformed, their superpowers only magnify the flaws or virtues they had as ordinary mortals. The same is true of aging wines - if it was a good wine before the aging process, it'll be a superhero. If it was flawed wine, it metamorphoses into to an archvillian with age. How do you know what's going on? Open a bottle every few years and taste it. This way, you see if you have superhero or archvillain AND have time to replace the wine if you want.
This sounds like a lot of money, but amortize it. If you spend $75 a bottle and purchase 12, store it for 21 years, that works out to $3.57 a month. You spend more than that on Starbucks coffee!
Second, you have to store these wines properly if you're going to age it properly. That means you absolutely must store it in a temperature controlled environment. Don't panic, though - you don't have to rush out immediately to do this. If you store the wine in a cool, dark place for a few months, or even a year, it probably won't affect the wine enough for you to notice. You have time to find a long term solution.
There are two solutions to your problem: 1) buy a wine refrigerator; 2) get offsite storage. In most cases, the first one is the best solution.
If you choose to buy a wine refrigerator, you only have to decide one thing - are you buying it solely to store your Legacy Wine? If so, spend only enough to store that single case of wine. You don't need fancy features or large size. Most of the wines you drink are made to consume wine now, so no need to store.
Love wine? You should probably buy a larger wine cooler, once that will store between 50-200 bottles. Though most wines are built to drink now, many of the best wines must be purchased before they are ready. It's the only way these wines are affordable, and in some cases, the wines are too tannic to drink right away. With a larger cooler, you can have a safe place for your Legacy Wine, age some bottles, and have a centralized location for your regular drinkers.
The other solution for storing a Legacy Wine is to find a wine storage site, a place to store your wine for a monthly fee. That way someone pays the electricity to keep the air moist and at a temperature somewhere around 55-60 F for 21 years. Just make sure the storage place is bonded and insured. Power fails and wines get stolen.
No free lunch
Be aware that even I, your humble wine insider, do not have perfect solutions to all wine conundra! Shocking, but true! There are even difficulties to my strategy for buying Legacy Wines. Here they are, in front of God and everybody.
Finding, purchasing and storing a Legacy Wine means lots of research into the best producers, retailers and storage options. You will have to fire up the internets, get on the horn and actually write stuff down. Do your homework here, or every time you insist your child does all the hard work, you'll be a hypocrite.
Oh yeah, you're doing this for your kids! Don't mess it up!
Some of these wines will be hard to find. We're talking about obscure grapes, small producers and rare appellations. You're not going to find these wines at Wal-Mart and maybe not even at your hometown liquor store. You may have to buy directly from the winemakers themselves. Be prepared. Be committed. Be persistent.
The only other downside to this approach is you'll have to try a lot more wines...oh wait, never mind.
I think you have a better start now down this path. Have I mentioned everything? No, nary a word about dessert wines like Port, Eiswein and Trockenbeerenauslese, which outlast everything mentioned above. I'm saving that for another column.
A final thought here - your descendants may not appreciate the second and third mortgages you took on the house to pay for the doctorate in comparative religion. They may not thank you for the 5 years you sacrificed working in Iran, apart from your family to ensure their futures. They may never even know what you gave up for their success. Do this right, however, and they will thank you for it and remember it forever.
That's a good legacy.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?