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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I wonder what is considered a young or old wine. How many years in the bottle before a wine is considered “old”?

—Fernando V., Colombia

Dear Fernando,

Age isn’t a regulated quality (thank goodness), and I bet everyone has their own idea of what makes a wine “old.” I believe a wine starts to edge into the “older” category when it starts showing signs of aging—phenolic compounds start to link together and drop out of suspension to become sediment, the color fades or starts taking on more brown shades, fruit flavors move into the background and secondary notes come into the foreground. In wines that have been stored properly, I often see this happening right about 10 years from the vintage date.

By the time a wine is 20 years old, most folks will probably consider it “old.” While I don’t often hear wine lovers discussing wines that are simply “old” or “young,” I do on occasion hear someone refer to a wine that is “backward” (youthful despite its age) or “forward” (mature for its age).

—Dr. Vinny

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