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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’ve asked this before and I’ve noticed others have asked it in different ways, but I’ve never seen an answer. If a wine is given a drinkability window of say, 2012 to 2018, does that mean it will continue to improve until 2018, or pretty much remain the same through 2018?
—Gary M., Bradford, Vt.
I think I get the nuance of what you’re asking. In the scenario you described, you’re wondering if we think this wine will be better in 2013 than it was in 2012, better in 2014 than in 2013, and so on, until it is the very best it can be in 2018.
The short answer is no, because wines are not ticking time bombs. If that were the case, you’d better drink it up by Dec. 31, 2018, because when Jan. 1 comes around, the wine would be bad.
Wines’ evolution is not a simple trajectory—just because a wine is older doesn’t mean it’s better (though that rule does apply to wine advice columnists). It depends a lot on the individual wine, and on the individual drinking the wine. Would the wine be better in 2018 than it was in 2012? Maybe. It would certainly taste different in 2018 than it did in 2012—it’ll have more bottle age, but that doesn’t make it automatically better. The drink recommendations are given by the tasters in good faith, based on experience, on when they think a wine will be at its peak. And yes, a “peak” tasting time can be over several years, even if it tastes different during this time.
In this case, the reviewer felt that after 2018, the wine’s future is less certain—perhaps it was made in a more drink-me-now style, or it doesn’t have a reputation for aging well. Regardless, your own personal experience and preference should be your primary guide to when to drink your wines.
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