Home > Experiences, wine > When Is The Wine Really (Really!) Ready To Drink?

When Is The Wine Really (Really!) Ready To Drink?

P1130633 Heretat Mont Rubi DuronaAbout a week ago, I opened the bottle of 2004 Heritat Mont Rubi Durona Penedes D.O. This is my second experience with the wine. The first one was about a year ago when I opened a bottle to celebrate Wine Century Club’s 7th anniversary (one of the grapes  this wine is made of, Sumoll, was a new grape for me).  Here is how I described the wine at that time:

very interesting herbal nose of sage and may be some oregano ( lightly hinted), and some nice red fruit on the palate, medium body, well balanced with pronounced tannins – I think it can still age for a while. Drinkability – 7+“.

Why am I telling you this and even citing my own tasting notes? Let me explain. This time, I opened the wine for a casual evening glass of wine, not for a dinner. I had one glass, and put it aside (using my faithful VacuVin to remove the air). The wine was tight and firm, with some cherries and good acidity on the palate. It was pleasant, but there were no problems with putting the glass down.

The next day, I opened the bottle again. There was not much of a difference with the previous night. May be the fruit became a touch softer, may be some raspberries showed up in addition to cherries, but tannins and acidity were still firm – not biting, no, but firm and present together. I had a glass or two, and closed the bottle again.

On the third day, something happened. The wine transformed from “ok, nice” to “WOW” (by the way, I think we need a new rating system for the wines – “yuck, ok, nice, wow, OMG” should do it – what do you think?). The wine became luscious, velvety, layered, showing the wide range of dark fruit – plums, cherries, touch of blackberries, touch of spices, all very balanced – it was impossible to put the glass down (no need too – there was nothing left in the bottle). In the three days, this wine transformed. It transformed from just an okay to wow, from the wine you can drink if you need to, to the wine you crave.

The subject of wine and time is one of the most fascinating. It is literally impossible to know what time will do to the wine. But I can honestly tell you, for the most of the “drink by” recommendations from the wine critics, I’m almost at the point of laughing. Okay, may be not laughing, but definitely ignoring. No, not all the wines will improve with time. Yes, there are general rules, like “drink Beaujolais Nouveau by the next May”. Yes, there are wines which are not intended to age, especially among the white wines, and especially if the white wine is Pinot Grigio or may be Sauvignon Blanc.  Yes, I probably wouldn’t age most of the Rose – but have you ever tried Lopez de Heredia Vino Tondonia Rioja Rosado? The wine was 11 years old when I tried it, and it was stunning.

The way I look at the wine aging is this – most of the wines can age, until it is proven otherwise. I had 1947 Rioja recently, which was youthful, exuberant and outstanding. During recent Rioja seminar, I listened to our presenter to describe his experience with 1917 Rioja. He tried the wine in the group of 8 wine professionals at the dinner – after the first sip, the table got quiet for the next 5 minutes – people simple had to reflect on the wine. If you look through this blog you will find my accounts with well aged California wines, such as 16 years old Flora Springs Chardonnay, 20 years old Justin Cabernet Franc, 15 years old Estansia Meritage and Toasted Head Cab/Syrah blend (probably $12 at the time of purchase!) – the list can go on and on – all the wines I’m mentioning were outstanding, however I’m sure none of them would be declared aging-worthy by conventional wine critics or even winemakers.

The tricky part of wine and time relationship extends even further. We want to drink the wines at their peak. How can we know when the peak will be? I don’t have much experience with red Burgundy wines in general. But I understand that their aging process looks rather interesting – very drinkable form the beginning, they shutdown after a while, and then they come back. How can you know you are drinking the wine when it is ready, and not only that – when it is at its best? I’m not sure… I had my own experience last year with 2002 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. From the moment the bottle was open, it was literally undrinkable – dense, rough, no fruit, just tannins – and it was like that for the 4 days. I didn’t try any aggressive decanting, but I tasted the wine every day. And then on the day number 5, the same magic happened as the one I described at the beginning of this post – the wine opened up into a beautiful WOW nectar – but I could’ve dump it just the day before!

Where am I going with all of this? I don’t have the destination. I want to make you to think about wine and time. I wonder where we, oenophiles, collectively are on this subject. I will hold my position no matter what – “the wine can age until proven otherwise” – but what do you think? What is your experience with “wine and time”? Can we do something to educate all the wine drinkers about it, do we even need to do it, or should we just drop the subject as you don’t believe it’s worth the bits, bytes and emotions? I will keep bringing up this subject from time to time, but hey, don’t be shy – see that comment box below? Cheers!

  1. April 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I need to think about this for a bit and will come back to you. Great post, Anatoli!

    • talkavino
      April 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks! It will be here, waiting for you : )

  2. April 7, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    “yuck, ok, nice, wow, OMG” PERFECT!

    • talkavino
      April 8, 2013 at 6:24 am

      glad you like it! Feel free to use it : )

  3. April 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Great post, Anatoli! I definitely agree, subject to certain exceptions (you mentioned Beaujolais, and Lambrusco would be another example) aging is generally beneficial to wine, especially red wine. This is because, with aging, tannins polymerize (i.e., their molecular size increases) and this process leads to “gentler tannins”, which really makes the difference with grape varieties that generally have harsher tannins, such as Nebbiolo, Montepulciano and Sangiovese.

    • talkavino
      April 8, 2013 at 7:21 am

      thanks, Stefano. Yes, I agree that aging is beneficial – but I believe the tricky part is to drink the wine while it is around its peak. Figuring this out is definitely a challenge. I will try to summarize my current thinking about different regions in one of the future posts – will be an interesting exercise…

      • April 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

        Totally agree! A big challenge if you ask me! I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on this subject, Anatoli.

  4. April 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I also think that the “beauty” is on the palate of the “beholder”. I prefer my wines with age on them (not all, as you so eloquently point out). Particularly Champagne. The problem with that? I believe that aged Champagne (with a slightly oxidized note) is an acquired taste, not for everyone. I also like my Zins with a bunch of age on them–I do not like big and fruity (most of the time) I like reserved and understated.

    Having said all of that, I still say all the time: I would rather drink a wine a day too early than a day too late!

    Great post!

    • talkavino
      April 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      I see your point with the sentiment of “too early is better than too late”, but it doesn’t always hold up as a rule… I guess I’m willing to accept more risk ( with the wine going past prime) for the potential reward of ultimate pleasure… But of course this is purely a personal decision, this is unquestionable.

  5. PSsquared
    April 8, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I like your new rating system! That would be better for novices like me. 😉

    • talkavino
      April 9, 2013 at 6:11 am

      thank you, I should start using it more : )

  6. PSsquared
    April 8, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Oh, and I REALLY like the photo. Well done, friend!

    • talkavino
      April 9, 2013 at 6:14 am

      thank you again : ) This label is pretty unique in it’s size and shape, so it was somewhat easy to take a picture with some perspective in it. For the most of the regular labels, especially the tall ones, if I will use the same angle/depth I think the label will be barely visible…

  1. April 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm
  2. April 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm
  3. April 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm

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