When to drink a wine

When should you drink a wine? Right away, wait a while, or after cellaring for years?

Good news. By far most of the world’s wines are best drunk relatively young—one to five years from vintage. In younger wines, fruit is primary flavor and taste is lively and fresh. Few improve with age; many will decline; enjoy now.

An argument can be made to allow wines shipped to you to relax a week to recover from jostling. Then go for it.

There are wines made to age. Quality French Bordeaux and the likes of California’s Château Pétrus have stellar track records for evolving over time. After years in the bottle, primary fruit fades and new flavors, complexity, and balance arise to offer different, marvelous pleasures. Such wines, however, are a tiny percentage of wines and usually are significant investments.

Furthermore, great old wines are not for everyone. Aged wines may not taste good to you if you prefer wines that are bright, rich, and ripe. If you do not have excellent cellar conditions, your mature wine may be a disaster when you open it.

In the past, winemaking techniques made age-worthy wines significantly unpleasant in their youth. Bottles didn’t show well until a decade or more after harvest. Today, market forces push winemakers to make age-worthy wines that show better young, especially after decanting. But why, when there is huge selection made to drink right away, would you buy an expensive, age-worthy wine and drink it young?

Buy something you like today, drink it when you get home with slice of aged cheese.


• Fineline Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich mouth feel, juicy red fruits. Paso Robles. $11

• Chasing Lions Bordeaux Blend. Dense, medium body exhibition of complex Napa terrior. $13

• Condesa Real. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot aged in French oak; limited production, available in San Angelo. Chile. $24

• Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva. Smoky cherries, plums, cedar, vanilla; gripping tannins. Spain. $35

• Chateau de Candale. Purple, serious fruit, Merlot and Cab. France. $49