Most wine is made to drink within five years of vintage.
Young wines flaunt primary fruits and can be lively, fresh, deliciously uncomplicated. They also can be simple, poorly structured, awkward, unsophisticated.
Older wines often are complex, smoother, have more subtle layers of fruit, tamed tannins. Depending on wine and storage, they also can be tired, muddled, undrinkable.
Points: age means many things; you do not have to hold wine for years to be a wine connoisseur. Enjoy the young wine you bought this afternoon.
No matter how long you hold your wine, however, correct storing improves chances a bottle will deliver promise and pleasure.
Avoid refrigerators. Frig temperature is 20 degrees cooler than optimum; there are temperature spikes when door is opened and closed, and vibrations galore. All bad for wine.
While 55-60 degrees is classic temperature for aging wine, a steady temperature is more important consideration, especially if you are not going to age your bottle for years.
Light prematurely ages wine. That’s why reds come in darker glass and whites, usually drunk young, often come in clear glass. Avoid constant light, especially sunlight.
Laying bottles on their sides helps keep cork damp, maintaining seal. With synthetic corks and screw caps, supine storage is not important, but there is no advantage to upright storage.
If you drink wine soon after purchase, none of this is critical. But if you hold back some good bottles for later in the year or longer, consider extra care.
• Hawk House Chardonnay. Pears, tropical fruit, vanilla hint. California. $12
• Robert Oatley Shiraz. Full flavored; blueberries, plum, minerals. Australia. $16
• Franciscan Chardonnay Napa Valley. Simple, pleasant, pear, apple, green melon; light oak. California. $16
• Orin Swift Zinfandel Saldo. Rich, stylish, black cherry, toasted oak. California. $28