How often do you try a wine and say to yourself, I bet that will be better in a year or two? How often do you try a wine and say, wow, I wish I had drunk that wine two years ago? It’s a wee bit past its prime. Today, we’re going to tackle the age-old question of figuring out when a wine is at its peak.
First Things First
- Delayed gratification. Because Americans aren’t good at delayed gratification, American winemakers know that they need to make their wines ready to be drunk upon release. So, 90% of American wines aren’t really meant for aging. Does that mean they won’t benefit from some aging? No, but it means they’re quite wonderful right now.
- Personal taste. As wines age, the fruitiness decreases, and the minerality and spiciness increase. So, if you like fruity wines, you will prefer young wines.
- The actual grape. Different grapes have different age-worthiness. Because of its tannins, a Cabernet has the potential to age much longer than a Pinot Noir.
- Storage conditions. The ideal way to age a wine is in a wine refrigerator kept at around 57 degrees. If your wine is subject to a lot of temperature variation, you need to take several years off of the winemaker’s recommendations about age-worthiness.
Listen to What the Winemaker Says
Given their deep knowledge of each wine they make, winemakers are the best people to decide when a wine will be at its peak. But keep in mind that their estimates are just estimates, and they’re based on each winemaker’s personal experiences, which might include storing wine at a consistent temperature and liking a nicely aged wine.
Listen to What the Experts Say
Many people rely on experts like Robert Parker and Wine Spectator to decide when to drink certain wines. These experts are good for giving you a general guide to the drinking window. But unless you’re buying really expensive wines that are known for their age-worthiness, your best bet is to stick to this rule: Most wines drink well upon release and are best within a few years.
Your Best Bet for Figuring out When a Wine Is at its Peak
If you love a wine, and you have the winemaker’s aging notes, buy at least three bottles of it. Open one of the bottles at the beginning of the aging window and see how the wine is faring. If it is still really tannic and the nose is still closed up, you will have an idea of how long to cellar the remaining bottles. If it’s already singing, then there is no reason to wait to drink the others.
If you love a wine, and you don’t have the winemaker’s aging notes, but at least six bottles of it. Drink a bottle every six to nine months. When you don’t think the wine can taste any better, drink the rest of it.
I would love to hear your thoughts about how you tell when a wine is at its peak. Cheers!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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