Q: I have around 300 bottles in my temperature- and humidity-controlled cellar, mostly reds, including Shiraz, Malbecs, Zinfandels, and Cabs dating from 2004 to 2007. Every month, I end up tossing around 5 to 10 bottles after opening them because they're bad. I have many older Bordeaux and Châteauneuf-du-Papes that are fine. Any idea what's going on? Is there a benchmark for how much wine in a cellar is bad? Is my palate that exquisite?—Daniel, Granger, Ind.
A: If there were something patently wrong with the mechanics of your cellar, your older Bordeaux and Châteauneuf-du-Papes would have madeirized long before the others. But that does not seem to be the case. Perhaps these younger bottles do not in fact enjoy the shelf life that was originally predicted. My rule of thumb is to taste a wine as soon as it is cellared in order to gauge its longevity, and uncork accordingly. The late Alexis Lichine (owner of Château Prieuré-Lichine, a classified Bordeaux from Margaux) used to say that more wine goes bad for not being drunk than for any other reason at all. It's worth taking a cue.
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