Friday, March 16, 2012

How-To: Age Wine

Most bottles of wine are meant to be drunk right away. The flavors are thought to be at their best as soon as the wine is bottled, and won't gain anything by extra time shelved. Some premium wines, however, are designed by the vintner to spend extra time in the bottle, to give the flavors the chance to mellow and blend. The wine will be nearly undrinkable (meaning it is likely off-balanced, with one note like acid or bitter being overly pronounced) when released. It is expected that the buyer will set it aside for years. In this case, the buyer would purchase several bottles and open them one at time over decades to find when the wine was "at its best." This would not be obvious to the palate of the average consumer, but wine critics like Robert Parker are in business to give recommendations on when a newly released wine will reach its best age. Wine like this is intended to be cellared, to protect it from the changes in temperature and lighting which alter the flavors. For the mega-serious wine buyer (investors and the like), wine-specific storage facilities exist to take care of those concerns. For most of us, this is not really within the scope of how we enjoy our wine. 

If you are purchasing a quality wine (more than $100 a bottle) for an upcoming special occasion, you might speak to the wine seller to ask whether this wine is meant to be aged further, or whether it is ready to open now. "Will this be good to drink now?" should answer any concerns. For most palates, this doesn't matter. And for most of us, a $20 bottle meant to be drunk now is perfectly good enough.

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