How long should you cellar wine?

June 9, 2009 No comments yet

During my tastings and dinners, I’m often asked how long a wine can be “kept”. While 99% of the world’s wines will NOT improve with age, almost all of my wines DO improve with age. So, what they are really asking is how long will it take for the wine to reach its maximum flavor and tasting potential.

The question always makes me smile because most people don’t keep wine very long at all. We are drinkers and not collectors. I usually tell them that the wine will “keep” longer than they will wait to drink it. But that’s not what they want to hear. They want a number, such as 8 years or 3 years or 22 years.

I tell them that a more serious response really depends on how they like their wines. People generally fall into 3 categories:

  • they like their wines young and fruity
  • they like them old and mature
  • they like the wines somewhere in between

Depending on how people like to drink their wines will determine how long to cellar them.

For example, one Premier Cru Pommard I have should be consumed 3-6 years after bottling for the folks who like their wines young and fruity. They appreciate the big black fruit flavors and the noticeable tannins.

But those in the “old and mature” group would want to wait 15-20 years to drink that same wine. The wine has lost a lot of its fruitiness and the tannins have softened. Secondary and tertiary characteristics have come to the forefront. This group appreciates these flavors more than fruitiness and power.

Finally, the people in the “in between” group should probably drink that same wine about 8-12 years after the date on the label (the harvest year). These people seem to want some of the fruitiness to still be present, but they also appreciate the development of more subtle flavors.

Bottom line is to determine when a wine is pleasing to you. At that point, simply drink!

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