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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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Why do some wines age really well for many years, while the average wine from the local grocers is age-sensitive?
—Pat, Deerfield Beach, Fla.
The vast majority of wines out there are made in drink-me-now styles—they’re at their best immediately, or within no more than 2 to 5 years of their vintage date. Most wines aren’t meant for aging. When a wine is young, it tends to taste fresh and lively, and its flavors showcase the primary fruit. Aged wines are not automatically better, but they can transform into something different. In order to have the stuffing to age well, a wine needs structure, balance and concentration. A well-aged wine may be terrific, but it will have almost definitely lost its youthful freshness and fruit flavors.
Still, there are plenty of wines that both taste great now and will improve with aging. As you point out, for the most part you won’t find age-worthy wines in the average grocery store. From what I’ve read about wine-buying habits, people who buy wines in grocery stores typically go home and crack open the bottle within the next few hours, so I imagine grocery stores cater to that type of business. (There are, of course, exceptional grocery stores with really amazing wine selections that I’ve seen.)
To buy a wine that’s more likely to have been hand-selected by the seller, stored correctly, and with someone available to answer your questions or guide you to a more serious or age-worthy wine, you really should find a wine shop. Strike up a relationship with them, tell them what you did or didn’t like about the last bottle they sold you, and ask for recommendations about what to try next. My local wine shops were huge influences on my wine learning curve.
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