When is a wine ready to drink?
A wine at its peak still has some youthful fruit flavors as well as the more subtle and complex aromas and flavors of maturity. The mature wine's texture will be smoother and the wine will seem more delicate and focused. The finish may also seem longer.
Finally, the remaining fruit fades and the wine declines, turning amber-brown. Acidity and tannins dominate and the wine can be described as dried out, over the hill or dead.
Picking the Peak
One responsibility of professional wine tasters is to estimate the length of time it will take a wine to develop bottle bouquet and how long the wine might continue to improve.
These estimates are made on the basis of experience and can take some of the guesswork out of determining when to drink a wine.
As a rule of thumb, a mature wine will remain at its peak for about the same length of time required to achieve its peak. For example, if a wine takes 5-10 years to peak, it will stay at that plateau for another 5-10 years.
Finally, personal taste, which is infinitely variable, is the key determinant of when a wine is at its best. Some people like the fruity freshness of young wines, while others prefer the darker complexity of older wines.
Where along the curve of a wine's evolution you prefer to drink your wines is a question only you can answer, based on your own experience.
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Wines can mature in your cellar or at the winery in bottles, small barrels or in large oak uprights like these.
Chateau Leoville-Barton in St. Julien, Bordeaux, France
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