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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What are the main features that give a wine a long life in bottle?
—Emilio C., Spain
The most necessary feature is a wine lover who likes wines with a long bottle life. I mean this sincerely—I can’t tell you how many times someone asks me a question about aging a wine and then gives me a blank look when I counter with the question of how much they like older wines. If you don’t like the characteristics of older wines, you’re better off enjoying them while they’re still young. And if you are going to age wines, make sure you give them a fighting chance with good cellar conditions.
That said, I think the main feature that gives wine a long life in the bottle is the right combination of structure, flavors and intensity. What that tastes like depends on each wine we’re talking about. If you’ve been tasting wines and observing how they age for a while, you’ll get a better sense of what a young bottle needs to mature into something you’d like.
I’ve always said that a wine cellar is not a hospital, so if you don’t like a wine when it’s young—if it’s unbalanced, flawed or just not good—there’s no magical transformation that will happen with aging. It just gets older.
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