As Karen MacNeil observed in The Wine Bible, “The question of readiness is a valid, if frustrating one. Drinking a wine when its most interesting flavors are being fully expressed is clearly preferable to drinking a wine that’s too young to have anything much to say.” Of course, deciding when to pull a bottle from its wine storage locker and share it during dinner with friends can be a difficult decision, and there is always a fair amount of debate on the finer issues of wine readiness. While there is no precise science to guide you in your decision, a few guidelines may give you a general idea as to when your wine is ready to enjoy.
The very careful treatment of white wines ensures that they are ready to drink from day one. In fact, most connoisseurs maintain that white wines are best when drunk very young, usually within a year or two of acquisition, especially the more inexpensive bottles. This is because white wines are meant to offer a fruity and fresh taste, but these flavors can fade over time. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule: certain high-quality Burgundies, Chenins, Rieslings, and Chardonnays do evolve in complexity over time.
These wines are known for their vibrant, fruity flavors when sampled at the appropriate time! Red wines contain tannin, a natural preservative that comes from the grapes. This substance adds complexity, dryness, and a slightly bitter flavor to most wines. However, its dominant flavor begins to mellow over time, allowing the wine’s other vibrant flavors to reveal themselves. Ideally, these wines will be stored properly in wine storage lockers to soften the tannic edge. Of course, as with the white wines, there are a few exceptions: specific wines from areas in France, California, and Australia are crafted for early enjoyment.
Essentially, it is important to remember that all wines change as they age, but the best moment for enjoyment is often a matter of personal preference. For example, some wine enthusiasts discover that pulling their tannin-rich red wines from their wine storage lockers early is preferable, and they may drink these bottles very young. Some prefer their wines to be sweet and mellow while others enjoy strong and vibrant flavors. As they begin to develop a sense of their personal tastes, enthusiasts get better at guessing when the wine will be most enjoyable.
While it is impossible to offer a set of hard and fast rules as to when a wine should be enjoyed, the important thing to take away is that there is no wrong time to uncork a bottle of wine.