Reflections of a Surprising Tasting

I’ve had similar conversations with Clients and Friends recently (there is much overlap between those two groups, fortunately!). We are talking about wines that were recently purchased, and I asked them how they are enjoying the new vintages. The response is almost invariably that they haven’t opened the bottle yet. Opening the bottle, at least to me, is the best part. So what’s keeping us from popping our prized bottles?

Planning when to enjoy a special bottle is an interesting problem to have. On one hand, you have a really cool bottle that you are excited to try, and waiting for the right moment. On the other hand, if you open it before the drinking window has potentially started, you run the risk of disappointment. This would really be a shame in situations where you only have one of a particular bottle. Generally when a quality wine is particularly young, it can take sometimes several days for the flavors and aromas to unfold. This can be particularly frustrating when you’ve opened a special bottle, ready to enjoy over the course of a meal.

Optimal drinking windows are fun moving targets, if you have enough bottles. However, there are several reasons that one shouldn’t be habitual procrastinators when deciding when to open a special wine. For one, it’s good to establish a baseline. Wine improves with age in theory, but not if it’s not an improvement on your palate. Also, by waiting too long to open, you risk the wine turning beyond a state of enjoyment.

I was recently terribly guilty of not following my own advice in this regard. After looking for an interesting bottle or two to open for a small gathering the other night, I chose the few that I’ve been saving for no particular reason. Turns out I have been saving them for over five years. And, turns out they should have indeed been opened way back then. They were still enjoyable, but I could tell the best times were well behind us, and it was on my own watch. Lesson learned, the hard way.

In situations when we have multiple bottles of a given wine, one should rarely hesitate over periodic intervals to open bottle and check on it. There is no magic feeling or sensation that happens when you hit the magical or mythical perfect age for a given wine. Keep playing with it, keep experimenting, and enjoy each experience for what it is. It’s hard to predict a drinking window, but it’s easy to tell when it’s closed.