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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I face a conundrum when I see a wine that I like with a small production. How many should I buy? If I buy just one, I'll never know how it will taste in a few years. If I buy two, I can see how one ages, but I will only be able to have one now, and one later. I have ended up buying at least three, and that leaves me with two for now and one for later. It's an endless problem. I would love to know what you do?

—Matt, from the Internet

Dear Matt,

Let’s assume that money and cellar space isn’t a concern. Is that nice? Now let’s get back to reality. For most folks, money and cellar space is a concern, so for wines that you are purchasing to enjoy both now and later, the three-bottle rule works really well. Most will open a bottle soon, then save the other two to visit later on. The concern is that if you only purchase one bottle, it will become so precious that you may never want to open it. And what if that bottle turns out to be corked or flawed in some way?

Of course, if it’s something that you have a lot of confidence in, you can bump that up to six bottles or more, and then you have more flexibility in watching it age, and you also have really thoughtful gifts to hand out. I love sharing aged bottles with friends, saying things like, “I just tried the 2004 the other day and it was showing beautifully—I want to share it with you.”

Here’s where I should remind everyone that you might not like aged wines, and that’s OK. You also might not have a proper cellar for aging wines, in which case you probably shouldn’t spend too much money on wines to age until you do. Tying up your money in multiple bottles of the same wine can also mean you have less money for new discoveries, so how many bottles you buy of a bottle of wine has a lot to do with your budget as well as your tastes.

—Dr. Vinny

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