Is it true that wines only improve for about five years after bottling?

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Dr. Vinny,

Is it true that wines improve for about five years after bottling and that there’s little improvement after that?

—Michael, Maryland

Dear Michael,

The truth is much more complicated than that.

There is a lot of confusion about when to drink a wine, or when it will show its best. I’ve met a lot of new wine lovers who treat bottles of wine like ticking time bombs of flavor, but that’s not necessary. When a bottle of wine is released for sale, it’s ready to drink. If stored correctly, most wines will remain at the same quality level they were released at for a few years.

There are some wines that have a secondary life—as they age, they become more complex and nuanced; these wines typically develop a reputation for aging well, and become sought-after as collectibles. It’s widely thought that the very best wines in the world have cellaring potential.

The idea that these wines “improve” as they age is really more a matter of taste: A young wine and a well-aged wine taste very different. Unless you are someone who likes the taste of older wines (and unless you have proper storage conditions for a wine to age), storing wine for long-term enjoyment might not be for you.

If you like wines for their bold fruit flavors or fresh acidity, drink them young. Most of the wines I drink are within a few years of their release. But I’m lucky enough to have a storage space with cool, consistent temperatures and good humidity for stashing special bottles to visit later. There’s something magical about revisiting a bottle of wine and finding it aged gracefully, just like an old friend.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Aging Wine Storage

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