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Drinking Out Loud

Is It Worth It to Age Wines Anymore?

Wines have changed and so have our palates

Matt Kramer
Posted: January 8, 2013

My greatest wine dream—and I'll bet it's yours, too—was a wine cellar. Not just the actual cool-temperature space, but one that was filled. I dreamed of a cellar so full that I could easily forget about whole cases of wine for years at a time, the better to let them age to a fantasized perfection.

That dream came true. It took me years—decades, really—to achieve. And it cost me a disproportionate amount of my limited and precious discretionary income, especially when I was only just starting out as a writer. I was motivated, obsessed even, by a vision of what might be called futuristic beauty. How soaringly beautiful it would be in 15 or 20 years!

I wasn't wrong—then. But I wouldn't be right for today. What's changed? Surely me, of course. I've had decades of wine drinking to discover that my fantasized wine beauty only rarely became a reality. But I had to find that out for myself. And I'm glad I did.

But it isn't all personal, either. In recent years it's become obvious that an ever greater number of wines that once absolutely required extended aging no longer do.

Simply put, most of today's fine wines—not all, mind you—will reach a point of diminishing returns on aging after as few as five years of additional cellaring after release. Stretch that to a full 10 years of additional aging and I daresay you will have embraced fully 99 percent of all the world's wines, never mind how renowned or expensive.

I can hear you already. What about this famous red Bordeaux? Or that fabled red Burgundy? What about grand cru Chablis? Or a great Brunello di Montalcino? Or Barolo?

Well, what about them? Yes, all of those wines and still others, such as German and Alsatian Rieslings, Napa Valley Cabernets and Hungarian Tokajis, reward aging.

But let me tell you something: With only a handful of ultratraditionalist exceptions, the modern versions of even these wines don't require anywhere near as much aging as their forebears.

This doesn't mean that today's versions of these wines are lesser. Rather, it's that fine wines have universally changed, sometimes radically so. And our tastes have changed, too.

Today, we're consistently presented with red wines—especially the greatest, most exalted and expensive examples—that are annually crafted from uniformly ripe grapes, thanks to "green harvests." A green harvest is when, a month or so before the actual harvest, less-ripe clusters are eliminated. These unwanted clusters are literally thrown on the ground.

Green harvesting is an utterly new phenomenon in wine history. Really, it was unknown before the 1980s and didn't become near-universal until well into the 1990s.

The modern rigor of "green harvesting" should not be underestimated in its effect. It has transformed the quality of fine red wines nearly everywhere, ensuring more uniformly ripe grapes with rounder, softer, finer tannins. (I'm not talking here about today's ultraripe late picking, which is another matter altogether.)

Of course, cleaner winemaking, more scrupulous attention to fermentation methods that minimize tannins, more careful filtering and a host of other winemaking and cellaring techniques (not least, the ubiquity of small oak barrels) have also dramatically transformed wines.

The bottom line: Today's wines are far more drinkable, far more gratifying, far more rewarding when drunk younger than their counterparts of 20 years ago.

Can they age as long? Yes, I think they can. But that's not the issue. Rather, the key question is: Do they need to? I think not. Only a very small handful of even the best wines truly require more than five years aging—10 years tops—in a cool space.

Because while many of today's wines can easily age far longer than that, the issue is not endurance. Rather, it's transformation. And because of the reasons cited previously, we're now able to see that desired transformation sooner in a wine's lifespan.

Will the transformation continue? In many cases, yes. But it does reach a point—and sooner than was once traditional—of diminishing returns.

The critical element is that where once we had to wait patiently to get even a glimmer of initially hidden depths (thanks to harsh tannins, unwanted oxidation and unclean flavors), modern wine offers us a fuller, richer, more rewarding view sooner. Think of an old oil painting carefully and respectfully cleaned of an obscuring varnish, allowing both color and texture to leap out almost three-dimensionally, and you've got it.

Of course there are wines today that stubbornly withhold their favors, such as Vintage Port and those few white wines that do not go through malolactic fermentation, such as Trimbach Rieslings, Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnay or the white Burgundies of Maison Louis Jadot.

Such white wines, which retain all of their hard malic acid, unsoftened by malolactic, or secondary, fermentation, structurally require a lot more aging before they even approach something akin to maturity. The malic acid serves to slow aging and makes the wine less approachable in youth.

But such wines are outliers. Even traditionally formidable wines, such as Barolo, are far more drinkable and genuinely rewarding younger than ever in their long history.

One other aspect of cellaring wine must be recognized. It is us. We are emotionally invested in cellaring wines. If we've been patient a long time in hopes of a better wine future, then the long-aged, long-anticipated wine surely must be better for the wait.

This was never put better than by the great English wine writer P. Morton Shand (1895–1960) who, uncharacteristically for an upper-class Englishman of his era, loathed Vintage Port: "A properly matured Port is rightly considered unequalled as the test of the pretensions of a county family to proper pride, patient manly endurance, Christian self-denial, and true British tenacity."

I do own (and buy) wines that would very likely further transform with more than five years aging. But I now increasingly find that the additional time is more "valuable" than the sensory return on that investment.

My hard-won experience with aging wines has now answered to my satisfaction the question about the absolute need for long aging; namely, that the great majority of wines today, in the great majority of vintages, don't really reward that "expensive" extra five or 10 years beyond the five or 10 years of aging you've already bestowed.

I am now convinced that today's wine lover is well advised to buy fine wines, cellar them in a cool space for five years—10 years, tops—and then drink them in secure confidence that the great majority of their full-dimensional goodness is available to you.

After that, it's all just fantasy—and the very real likelihood of an increasingly diminishing return on your already delayed gratification.

Peter Vangsness
East Longmeadow, MA —  January 8, 2013 12:05pm ET

Well done! I agree that the focus on earlier drinkability has, in fact, transformed the industry.
Part of that impetus has been the increased attention paid to barrel tastings and ratings of wines upon release. A young, awkward Bordeaux sure to age gracefully and reward the patient buyer may not compete well in its class and, therefore, command the price the vintner desires.
Also, we as a people are just not as patient as we once were, due mostly to the impact of technology.
For me, the dream is now to find a properly aged wine available from one of my many internet markets and secure that "ready to drink" bottle for immediate enjoyment. Most of my "cellar" wines, about 60 bottles, are all drinkable now!!!!
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco —  January 8, 2013 2:29pm ET
I have outlived too many of the wines I thought might outlive me. Bravo, Matt, for letting this cat out of the bag. An excellent perspective.

Still, I want longevity. As I can't possibly get to all my wines when I should, I appreciate it when they can still deliver pleasure both sensory and intellectual even after their putative use-by dates.
Jim Mason
St. John's, Canada —  January 8, 2013 4:39pm ET
I agree that most reds these days need no more than 7-10 years to "soften up." However, I do like my Amarone after about 10-15 years in order for them to develop those rich secondary flavour characteristics. And Tokaji, while great young, is truly awesome after 15 years of bottle age.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino, California —  January 8, 2013 5:35pm ET
Bravo! I have close to two thousand bottles of wine in my cellar, mostly reds of all kinds from all over the world. Lately, I find myself prefering the younger fresher wines over the those aged ten years or more. A few years of aging, four to eight at most is usually all that is require. To me, after that, they lose something. Its nice to know I'm not alone
Michael Nickel
Memphis, Tennessee —  January 8, 2013 8:10pm ET
Excellent piece, Matt. Now I can, with a good conscience, let go of that burdensome fantasy of the "Death Bed Bacchanal" where family members rush to my bedside with all the bottles I ultimately waited too long to drink. I've long thought the extended and self imposed moratorium on opening a special bottle was unnecessary, but what do I (or any of us, for that matter) really know about how a wine will age? When uncertain, let it age a little longer, I thought. There's a lot of money tied up in some of those wines, after all. But on those occasions where impatience got the better of me, especially with reds, I found my worry unwarranted. I'm happy to read that you and others have have come to believe that which I, until now, had only the courage to suspect.
Rob Stenhouse
Darien, CT —  January 8, 2013 8:57pm ET
Interesting perspective Matt. I was wondering how you square this with your post from June 2010 that one of the "truths" about wine is that they are better with 10 years of bottle age?
The Odom Corporation
Portland, OR —  January 9, 2013 1:25am ET
What is you opinion comparing a traditionally styled wine that is tight, closed upon release, aged 10-15 years then consumed -vs- a modern styled wine accessible upon release then aged 5 years before consumption?

With all other factors being equal (vintage quality, winemaking, storage conditions, etc.), would one or the other at it's apex of drinkability be better than the other?
David A Zajac
Akron, Ohio —  January 9, 2013 8:25am ET
I admit that most wines are made in a much more user friendly style, and a good portion of that has to do with the ripeness grapes seem to picked at today, and that is not just California, but Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo routinely now achieve 14% alcohol levels. That certainly helps the wines to feel more drinkable, but I still feel your giving too little credit to what frequently does happen in bottle. California needs little to no age to drink, but have you tasted the 1995 or 1996 Bordeaux vintages lately, or how about 2005 Burgundy (I know, still under the 10 year mark you set), none of these wines, at least in my experience, are close to being ready to drink. Now, can you pull a cork and drink them, sure...but are they pleasureable and anywhere near where, at least I anticipate they will be in another 10-15 years, I don't think so. Or are these some of the exceptions you are talking about?
Jack Folbe
Huntington Woods, MI —  January 9, 2013 9:13am ET
Although I agree with much of what you write, especially when it comes to cabs, I am puzzled when I compare your comments to the drink by dates in your peers' reviews. There aren't too many first through fifth growth bordaux rouge reviewed that have drink by dates less than 10 years after the vintage and for many the window goes out to 22 years.
Same for many of the Barolos, CNP, and Riojas reviewed.
Again, I agree that many don't improve after 7 years from release.
Lately, however, I have found this trend. Wait five years for reds and decant. Let the wine breath. Too many of my friends pop the bottle and drink like guppies only to savour the last sip and say "this got better with time (and a higher blood alcohol level)".
Finally, one nice surprise is that I have found many more American pinot noirs evolve nicely over three years and reward short term cellaring rather than "drink now" . I'm not sure why, maybe better structure and sophistication in the wine-making process.
Matt Kramer
Portland, Oregon —  January 9, 2013 9:34am ET
Mr Stenhouse: You ask: "I was wondering how you square this with your post from June 2010 that one of the "truths" about wine is that they are better with 10 years of bottle age?"

I went back to my Web column of June 1, 2010 to remind myself of what I wrote. (You have a better memory than I!) Briefly, what I wrote was this:

"Most fine wines are at their best with 10 years of age. Like all truths, this is not an exactitude so much as it is reliably true for most wines most of the time. ...You will almost never go wrong serving any wine with 10 years of age on it. This of course assumes that the wine has been well stored in a cool place. Without that, all bets are off. But if well cellared, I’m hard-pressed to think of a fine wine that isn’t either showing its best or at least approaching its best after a decade of aging from the date of the vintage.

... Does this mean that you shouldn’t drink any fine wine until it has hit the 10-year mark? Of course not. Rather, this truth suggests that never more than today, when so many wines are well made, there’s no hurry. And that after 10 years of age in a cool spot, nearly all fine wines can give you the best of both worlds: a still-youthful fruitiness and the greater dimensionality of flavor that only age can offer."

At the risk of sounding defensive, I don't think there's too much of a contradiction here except for my suggesting now that five years of aging sounds the starting gun, as it were. And that ten years of aging is pretty much all that the great majority of wines need nowadays.

This is a classic your-mileage-may-vary situation. I certainly don't see the ten-year mark as any kind of a cliff.

As you know, "best" is in the palate of the beholder. And ten years of cellaring may well be ideally "best". I sure don't think that any of us can go wrong with aiming for that mark. Today, however, I'm more available to looking at the five-year mark as well.

Matt Kramer
Portland, Oregon —  January 9, 2013 9:52am ET
Mr. Zajac: You write: "I still feel your giving too little credit to what frequently does happen in bottle. California needs little to no age to drink, but have you tasted the 1995 or 1996 Bordeaux vintages lately, or how about 2005 Burgundy (I know, still under the 10 year mark you set), none of these wines, at least in my experience, are close to being ready to drink....Or are these some of the exceptions you are talking about?"

Believe me, I do not wish to discredit the transformations that we all know occur with fine wines that are given extended bottle age. And there's no question that the greatest red Bordeaux have a proven capacity to age and transform over a very long span of time.

That noted, I can only return to my original assertion that the great majority of wines today will offer *most* (or at least a goodly amount) after seeing five to ten years of additional cellaring after release. Clearly, the likes of a great red Bordeaux from a top vintage will reward the ten-year mark rather than the five-year one. And just as clearly, it will keep sailing onwards toward yet more (if diminishing) transformations after that ten-year mark.

As for red Burgundy, I can say that I am drinking the 2005s with great pleasure today. Will they continue to transform? Sure they will. But many of them are already showing lovely transformation, especially at the village and premier cru levels. Is there yet more to come? I have no doubt. But the "transformation returns" will be diminishing, in my opinion, after the ten-year point for all but the best grands crus or from wines grown in sites that are known to create unusually slow- or long-aging wines.

This matters of "ideal" readiness is always better thought of as a continuum rather than as something exact or fixed. My only point here is that today's wines, unlike those of, say, 20 or 30 years ago, are now available to us in a rewardingly transformed state sooner, for the reasons cited in the column.
Paul Perivolaris
London, Canada —  January 9, 2013 10:42am ET
I think there is another nice point about aging wines. You get to still look at them! Sometimes the wine still in the bottle tastes better in your "fantasy" than in real life. That thought and the simple visual of hundreds of bottles of wine in a cellar makes it worth keeping for a while. For that I will still buy wines that will age well, they may not get better, but as long as they are still great when I finally drink them I will enjoy the process.
Mark Soberman
McLean, VA —  January 9, 2013 4:29pm ET
A couple of years ago, the very points you make were revealed to me when I drank through a mixed case of 2000 Barolos I had put away for 10 years. All were WS rated 93-96 with initial tasting notes that promised greatness. All were stored in optimal conditions. When consumed in 2010-11, none of them knocked my socks off. It would have been nice to sample them a few years earlier.
Morewine Bishar
Del Mar, California —  January 9, 2013 5:49pm ET
Excellent piece, Matt. A further question occurs with increasing frequency to me as I age along with my wines. Although the wine may be in good shape years from now, will I?

I recall the remark of a older customer at my first wine shop gig. When the 1985 Vintage Ports were first being offered he said to me with real sadness in his voice "I will never buy another new vintage of Port because I'll never live long enough to drink it."

Don't leave your best wines for your heirs!

David Clark
for The Wine Connection
Warren Sutherland
Vancouver BC Canada —  January 9, 2013 9:32pm ET
I am discovering that the 5 - 10 year syndrome is true. While my 2001 - 2 & 3's are still smooth they are in the process of losing what I call their 'body'. It is time to 'Drink Up'.
Interesting, but none of them are screw caps!
Kevin Smith
LA, CA —  January 10, 2013 2:13am ET
My 20+ year wine cellar isn't really about aging wine. Rather, its more about fond memories. Ever have that perfect meal with that perfect wine? With help from my cellar, I can recall "perfect" wine/meal pairings from way back. There is nothing better then having the ability to pull that cellared wine memory and blend it with that sessional new modern entree. I claim a key advantage to cellaring wine is having the ability to recall the past while creating new culinary parings in the now. How could you pull this of without cellaring?
David A Zajac
Akron, Ohio —  January 10, 2013 3:00pm ET
Matt, I guess I am confused as to the term "drinkable". We can all agree that wines released today are more open and accessable that wines released 20 years ago, especially in Bordeaux as I am blown away by how up front so many of the 2009's are, at all levels! However, you could call any wine "drinkable", even a corked bottle that you wouldn't want to drink. So my take is that its easy to say a wine is drinkable, but the more important question seems to be is the wines character as good today as it is likely to be in 10, 20 or 30 years. It doesn't change the fact that the wine is drinkable, but is the bottle what you expect for that particular the wine. For instance, if you pulled the cork on a bottle of 2005 Echezeaux, is it distinguishable from a bottle of Clos Vougeot or Vosne Romanee premier cru or even a Grands Echezeaux? I find certain wines, although delicious, are lost if they are not given the proper time to show themselves, and to my mind the two most distinctive area's for this are Burgundy and Barolo. In fact, how many times have you heard people say, I don't get Burgundy/Barolo, they don't seem to be anything special. Well, they certainly are, you just drank the bottle way too soon as it never had time to show its character. Am I misinterpreting your comments?
Matt Kramer
Portland, Oregon —  January 10, 2013 4:05pm ET
Mr. Zajac: You write: "I guess I am confused as to the term "drinkable". ...I find certain wines, although delicious, are lost if they are not given the proper time to show themselves... In fact, how many times have you heard people say, I don't get Burgundy/Barolo, they don't seem to be anything special. Well, they certainly are, you just drank the bottle way too soon as it never had time to show its character. Am I misinterpreting your comments?"

I take your point and can easily agree with it. And no, you are not at all misinterpreting my comments. Allow me to amplify, if I may.

What you say is true, namely, that the compelling distinction of a wine such as Barolo or a relative handful of grand cru Burgundies is difficult to perceive when the wine is very young. I agree.

What I am submitting is that for the reasons cited in the column, many examples of these very wines--to say nothing of the great majority of fine, but less formidably long-lived or "difficult" wines--are accessible and "drinkable" after five to ten years of additional aging after release.

"Drinkable" in this context means, at least to me anyway, that many of the virtues of the wine are on display. I would include in this the likes of many Nebbiolo wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco, except for the most traditionally-made versions.

And I would also include many grand cru red Burgundies and most premier crus, again excepting very traditionally made versions or those wines from sites that just seem to be unusually stubborn in their maturation. (Pommard Rugiens, a single-vineyard premier cru red from Burgundy, comes to mind as an example of a wine that takes its sweet time to come around, never mind how it's made.)

The key is this: For all of the reasons I've cited, along with yet others that I haven't mentioned such as yeast selection, enzymes, micro-oxidation and vacuum concentration, today's wines reach their inflection point of transformation sooner than those same wines did 20 or 30 years ago.

As stock market followers frequently point out, the past is no predictor of the future. The same now applies to fine wines.

Simply put, you can no longer extrapolate from past experience with wines of another era. Many seemingly unchanged wines (same vineyard; same owner; same grape varieties) are, in fact, not at all the same wines they were 20 or 30 years ago. Barolo is a perfect example of this. You now really have to search hard to come across a young Barolo today that tastes the same as an equally young Barolo did 30 years ago.

The same may be said for most Burgundies, most California Cabernets, most Italian wines from pretty much everywhere and, indeed, very nearly every ambitious fine wine from any country you'd care to name. Of course there are exceptions. But such traditionally-structured wines are now easily seen as exceptions to an ever more universal rule of greater accessibility sooner.

Today's wines, never mind how renowned or historic, are cleaner, fresher, more vibrantly fruity, less burdened with defects and--here's the key--arrive at their inflection point of transformation sooner than they did 20 or 30 years ago.

I have no doubt that these wines also will continue to age and proceed gracefully along a continuum of yet more, if diminishing, transformation. But the rules of the game have changed.
Jeff Loomans
San Francisco, California —  January 10, 2013 10:08pm ET
Great insights Matt, and timely for me. I just recently remarked to my local wine store owner that I had overstocked my cellar with the recent run of quality Barolo vintages, and he suggested trying some of my '04 Viettis. OK, I could see popping 2000's-era Scavinos or Clericos - producers who are maybe reputed for earlier approachability - but I was shocked he was suggesting an 8 year old Barolo from a house I consider more traditional in style.

I was surprised to find it had developed many of the nuances you'd expect from an older Barolo - flowers, finesse - without slam-you-over-the-head tannins masking it all. And this was Rocche. I take Mr. Zajac's point: there's no question in my mind that particular bottle is going to continue to develop and have the singular qualities you find only in aged Barolos. But there's also no question it was characteristically "special" and "Barolo" today - much more fruit and less delicacy than it will have in another ten to twenty years, but that's a tradeoff I'm happy to try both sides of, since I still have a few bottles left. A few nights later I tried a similarly aged Mascarello and it too was quite drinkable.

Glad to know this probably wasn't a fluke. So, based on your analysis, I think I'll solve my storage-space problem the best way possible - by opening more bottles!
Craig Ernst
Napreville Il —  January 11, 2013 10:53am ET
Matt, Very well said. James Laube's been saying this for years! "Drink Up"
David A Zajac
Akron, Ohio —  January 11, 2013 3:36pm ET
Good topic, but one more question. Everone today compains about he internationalization of wine, where one wine tastes like all the others...doesn't this contribute to that? Make it, drink it and hopefully like it, but doesn't a Cab taste like a Merlot which tastes like a Syrah which taste's like a Grenache etc etc etc when you pick, make and drink them so quickly? My comments are meant to be a bit extreme, but overall, doesn't this contribute to that phenomenon?
Vince Liotta
Elmhurst, Il —  January 11, 2013 7:08pm ET
David Z., Your question is a fair one--certainly has as much weight as the one asked by Mr. Kramer. Although the drink younger idea outlined here holds some water, personally I am certainly not excited by it, nor do I find it original. Americans need another excuse for instant gratification?

Furthermore, I am troubled by Mr. Kramer's inconsistencies. He seems to lack the same backbone, or structure if you will, which he recently railed against as a poor indicator of a wine's ability to age. He had trumpeted wines with a "poke" of acidity or "chew" of tannin--clear signs of wines with structure--as being more characterful, more "authentic", only to later demean wines with tannic structure as old fashioned, out-dated and not even age-worthy necessarily.

He announced Syrah as the next big thing in California and when that did not come to fruition, his rationalization? It's because California Syrah's need time to age!

Unlike Mr. Kramer, I am comfortable and confident recommending drink windows to our customers. My journey building a cellar has similarly been very different as I appreciate aging wines as much or more than ever before. It is a way of participating in the development of a wine and takes them to a plane which simply cannot be realized in their younger state.

Moreover, the opportunities for and availability of wines which reward cellaring are as great if not greater than ever. I have recently finished a last bottle of 2001 Valpolicella which was purchased at $10 retail--each bottle got better as the years progressed, although it drank well young also. $15 Vouvray and Riesling from the right producers age wonderfully for 7 to 12 years, transforming to $30 or $40 values in this drinker's opinion. $20 to $40 Australian Shiraz can do fascinating things in the cellar with 6 to 12 years of age. Most well-structured wines increase their versatility for pairing with food with age, gaining finesse, integration and perhaps even a bit of majesty.

We have opened a variety of aged wines with our customers at the stores over the years, and the buzz and excitement surrounding it is greater than any other tasting feature we have.

Alfonso Cevola
Dallas, Texas, USA —  January 12, 2013 10:05am ET
Some of us who started collecting 20+ years ago were lucky to buy wines we could (barely) afford then which cannot afford now, because the wines have become rarer with greater amounts of people wanting them, thus raising the prices. So while I agree with your column, I am glad I secured some of these old gems so that I could once in a awhile revisit old friends who have moved so far away in the economical range. Good news is there are plenty of good drinkable affordable wines this old palate can enjoy, and once in a while I can bring out an old friend and enjoy the good times we have had traveling down the wine trail together.
H Daniel Fawcett
Fort Worth, TX —  January 12, 2013 6:07pm ET
I buy many wines by the case and for a lot of them what is critical is the plateau of drinkability. There are few things better than drinking the same wine that's been cellared properly from release over a 10, 20, 30 year period and finding differing reasons for enjoying that same wine. What's great about todays wines is the earlier pleasurable drinkability. It's nice to know you can start enjoying them in 5 years instead of 15-20 years. At my age the latter is not an option. As for the older ones, I'm fond of telling people that the Dan of 62 thanks the Dan of 35 for buying the wines that I'm enjoying now.
Alfonso Cevola
Dallas, Texas, USA —  January 13, 2013 9:28am ET
one of the few things our present "me" thanks our younger "me" for :)
Amedeus Dascanio
Maple, Ontario ,Canada —  January 14, 2013 12:21pm ET
My stategy on this topic is simple.

Using an example of a 10-12 year wine (assuming I have a case), I will try 2-4 bottles at the 5 year mark, Then 2-4 more between 5-10 year mark and the balance at the 10 to 12 plus year mark. Makes for interesting notes of comparison between the early and late stages. It also gives an early warning system if I feel they have reached their peak early or can wait longer.

Not a perfect system , but a lot of fun!!
Anybody else using this method?

Robert Lapolla
san diego ca —  January 15, 2013 1:10am ET
I have purged my cellar of nearly all California wine older than 2006. My French wine is 2003 or newer.. Italian wine 2005 or newer. I have a few bottles older that I keep at 40 degrees or lower to essentially stop aging them. If the wine is too rough there are aerators and decanters . Drinking them after a day Of opening will also do wonders. Old dead wine is dreadful. I love the fruit. I generally don't mind tannins.
William Matarese
Florida, USA —  January 15, 2013 12:26pm ET
I tend to agree that the vast majority of wine produced today won't benefit at all from bottle aging.

But there are exceptions. And I would place Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and most "Super-Tuscans" in that category. Many - if not most - of these wines absolutely require aging to soften their tannins. Yes, there are some producers - such as Clerico (mentioned above) - whose wines are more approachable when young, but more often than not it is a waste not to give them several years' time after release before opening.
Gregory Kendall
Laurel, MD, US —  January 16, 2013 10:52am ET
A valuable lesson I learned long ago about wine was once it is in bottle it is ready to drink! : ) Although there are ALWAYS exceptions to this rule, I still myself drinking one bottle early to discern how approachable the wine is currently as to how it MAY be in the future. As to how it may turn out in the future, well, it is pretty much as a "crap shoot" ,so to speak, but more often than not, I find myself enjoying the younger wines. Let me ask you (guys) which you'd prefer .... a young Pamela Anderson or old Pamela Anderson (or not)? Lol
Orlando Nieto W
Venezuela —  January 21, 2013 2:09pm ET
I Think in Gauss, with quality and time, the higher quality wines may have more time in cellar
American in Sydney —  July 1, 2013 7:45am ET
Robert Parker also came to this conclusion a few years back Matt....

I have a question...do you think or feel Cdp wines with scores of 95 and above..require five or less years of cellaring.....

Matt great article!!

Maurice Gonsalves
Australia —  July 10, 2013 6:03am ET
I think Matt's point has more validity in relation to Californian wines.
I live in Australia and can think of very few good Australia shirazes that are not infinitely better after a few years in bottle.some , like Grange , need 20 years +. I do wish the critics would give us a better guide to peak drinking window - one of the very few that does is Australia's Jeremy Oliver. It is very unhelpful to say drink betwen now and 2020 when in fact the wine is drinking nowhere near its peak now.
Edward Simmons
Nova Scotia Canada —  April 7, 2014 3:09pm ET
Well Matt, here's my take, as usual the "truth" is somewhere in the middle. I will rarely leave a case of wine for ten years, rather, depending on the wine I will try it at 3-5, make a judgement call. Then maybe go back in 2 or three years, or six months, and so on.
My concern with your comments is that they may encourage consumers, who in turn encourage the industry, or is it the other way around; and more and more wine gets drunk younger and younger. A trend which not only tends to commoditize wine but reduces the likelyhood of people tasting older wines and enjoying what can be a wonderful and unique experience, and not all fantasy by any means. If consumers and the industry all adopt that model I fear we will lose part of the wine experience that is precious,and special. The wines in my cellar cover about 4 decades,and I am rarely dissapointed when I open my older bottles, as I did with a trio of top notch California Zins from the mid to late 90's on the weekend past. However I'm sure that many of my younger wine drinking friends would be somewhat puzzled by them, lacking as most of them do, any frame of reference for older wines. Properly made, aged wines are part of the tapestry of the wine experience and I do think we all lose if that is abandoned or overlooked by the industry.
Blake Seitz
Eau Claire, WI. USA —  July 26, 2014 3:41pm ET
Hey Matt, Is there any chance your book about understanding Italian wines will ever be reprinted or go to e-print?
Anne Frisbie
menlo park, california —  March 6, 2017 7:36pm ET
This is one of the best wine articles that I have read of late. And, I say this even while loving my wine cellar that is filled with barolo, brunello and bordeaux wines from great vintages. And, while only having a few vintage ports, sauternes, and german rieslings and NO white burgundies of any real age. Will it change what I choose to cellar? Maybe? Maybe Not? But, I really appreciate your sharing your insights.

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