It’s good to have friends with old wines.

I was the happy dinner partner to one such collector, Lance Montalto of the Wine House in Los Angeles recently, who brought a bottle of Fèlsina Rancia from 1988 to dinner at Gusto.  This is the kind of wine that sneaks up on you.  At first sniff, it exhibited all the straightforward markers of Chianti- leather, tar, cherries.

Then, as the wine began to unfurl itself in the glass the aromatics deepened into haunting notes of chestnuts, crushed bay leaves, dried mullberries, cigar smoke.  This bottle of Rancia was like a cat stretching in the sun- flexible, lazy and eager to soak up the atmosphere once it was allowed to spread itself out over the course of our dinner.

This is why we obsess over older wines- they offer a glimpse into the elusive magic of time.  The same beautiful grapes, handled carefully by the same expert hands taste and smell different after 30 years in the bottle.   This is the alchemy of time.

Simple, confounding, and undeniable.