ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

When I am buying a wine off the shelf and/or don’t have Wine Spectator to reference, how do I determine the ideal time frame to open/consume any particular bottle of wine?

—LaMar W., Galion, Ohio

Dear LaMar,

The ideal time frame to open a bottle of wine depends on both the bottle and the taster. But I’ll make it easier for you: while there are exceptions, the vast majority of wines on the shelf drink well upon release. Even the wines built for aging will taste good when they’re released; it’s not like they’re bad one day and terrific the next.

Aging a wine doesn’t mean it’s automatically going to be better, it just means that its flavors will evolve. And I don’t think aged wines are for everyone. A new wine lover might not have realistic expectations of what happens to an aged wine. And if you prefer wines with rich, ripe fruit flavors, healthy tannins, or bright acidity, older wines might not be for you.

You have to use your own experience as a guide. If you’ve never tried older wines, or if you don’t have good cellar conditions (a constant, 55-degree-ish, 70 percent humidity), I wouldn’t recommend aging them yourself. First, try to find out if you like aged wines—order one in a restaurant, attend a tasting event, or, if you’re lucky, share one from the cellar of a more experienced friend. The best examples of aged wines are soulful and transcendent. The worst are tired and oxidized.

—Dr. Vinny


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