Over the Hill or Hitting its Stride?

old wine bottle

Wine industry ‘op-eds’ on whether and how long to age wine pop up pretty frequently.  Either wine lovers are impatient and don’t age wine the way they should (‘kids these days!’), or, as in this one, aging wine is obsolete – grapes are riper and wines are better made, making aging unnecessary.

Then there are the critics, who don’t help matters by publishing ‘drink dates,’ that sometimes seem a little too specific.  “Drink from now until the 3rd Tuesday of March of 2018.”   To add to the confusion, they are often tasting barrel samples that haven’t been bottled or shipped under normal circumstances, so they are tasting a wine that is going to taste somewhat different by the time a normal consumer buys it off a store shelf or in a restaurant.

So, what’s the answer – to cellar or not to cellar?

We think it’s somewhere in the middle, which unfortunately doesn’t make for attention-grabbing headlines.  Whether or not wine should be cellared for long periods has more to do with what flavors you like in wine.

If you like wine young, fresh, and full of fruit, then you should drink it young and ignore those dates at the end of wine reviews.  If you like more mature wines, with what wine dorks like us refer to as ‘secondary’ flavors, you should find a place to store wine until you’ve got it at the point where you like it.

Which begs the question: How do you figure out what you like?  Taste a lot of wine!  Pretty fun solution, right?  Whenever you get a chance to taste an older wine, jump at it, whether it’s at an in-store tasting or your Uncle Herb wants to bring out something musty from his cellar.  Hunting in stores can sometimes yield results (we always have a few more mature bottles, and there are more in our cellar if you ask), but unless you know and trust your source, you can’t always be sure of how well the wine has been stored, which can affect its ability to age.

When you taste these older wines, ask yourself if you honestly, truly like the its flavors and aromas.  It’s OK if you don’t!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with preferring young wine, but it’s easy to forget that when presented with an older bottle because it just seems more ‘special’ somehow.

Last but not least, sign up for our One Sip At A Time Aging Wine class on March 14.  We’ll walk you through the characteristics that separate older wines from younger ones, and help you decide once and for all whether or not you think a wine is over the hill or needs 10 years to be most enjoyable to you.

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