Mailbag Monday: When is a Wine Ready to Drink?

Dear Alleigh:
I own a bottle of Bitch Barossa Grenache wine.   It has not been open but we are interested in finding out the drinking window for this wine has passed. Will it still taste good today…October 13, 2011?

This question actually brings up the larger issue of “when is a wine ready to drink?”  When trying to figure that out, it’s important to know the date of the vintage.  The Bitch Grenache I reviewed, for example, was a 2008.  The vintage year is usually printed on the front wine label, although there are some fancy labels that don’t.  If that’s the case, make sure you check the back label.  Bitch Grenache actually has the year on both the front and back labels.

Most everyday wines, like the Bitch Grenache, are released when they’re ready to drink, and it’s usually best not to cellar these wines.  For the most part, I assume that if I’m spending less than $20 or $25 on a bottle of wine, it’s ready for me to drink right away.  I’ve hung on to too many bottles in that price range, only to have them go bad before I had a chance to enjoy them.  That’s not to say that you can’t find wines under $25 that are worth cellaring, but it takes some research to figure out which wines are worth holding on to.

Besides cost, another rule I tend to use when determining if a wine is ready to drink is the type of closure used on the bottle.  If the wine is bottle top or a screw top, you can assume it is ready to drink when you buy it.  While, there is some debate about the aging ability of synthetic corks, I tend to consider them wines that are ready to drink when I buy them, as well.  If it’s a real cork?  Well, that’s when I go back to my $25 price rule, determine my patience with the idea of keeping the bottle around, and calculate the amount of wine storage space I have before I determine whether it’s a wine that I will open right away.

Usually, if I’m trying to decide if I should keep a wine that isn’t too expensive, I will actually buy a bottle to taste test.  There is no better way to figure out whether you think a wine has aging potential than by giving it a swirl and sip.  Sure, that means you may end up buying a second bottle to actually cellar, but in that case, you can guess at the wine’s aging potential and you have something to look forward to.

All in all, though, when it comes to the Bitch Grenache, in particular, I would say that it’s a wine that isn’t going to get any better with age, so you should consider opening it soon.  It may be passed it’s prime already, but there is no way to know for sure without giving it a taste.  And, what’s the worse that can happen?  You open it and decide that the wine isn’t any good, so you don’t finish the bottle.

Definitely check back in to let us know what you think of the wine!


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  1. says

    These are good logical tips. I don’t cellar any wine, it just doesn’t stick around long enough! Wine is such a great vehicle to bring people from very different walks of life together. We have a humorous take on wine reviewing because we are not experts but still enjoy the fruit of the vine. Enjoy!

    • says

      Margie…I’m with you, wine just doesn’t stick around long enough for me to cellar, and I love being able to share it with other people. That’s part of the fun of drinking it. I’m glad you found the tips helpful, though. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. says

    Hey, great share…

    I am a huge wine lover and I agree that storage of wine is an important consideration for wine that is being kept for long-term aging. Properly aged wine tastes fabulous.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

    Keep drinking and keep sharing …..

    • says

      Thanks, Larry! There is definitely something special about a properly aged wine. At the same time, there are few things quite as disappointing as opening up something that has been sitting for a while, only to realize that, for whatever reason, aging the wine made it worse not better. Cheers!

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