Wine Talk

Snooth User: RexSeven

Questions about Drink Dates???

Posted by RexSeven, Oct 8, 2010.

I have some questions about suggested drink dates.

How are they determined?

How concrete are they?

Why do they vary so much within the same variety of wine.

Are they assuming proper temp, humidity and light control?


Reply by Cab Franc, Oct 8, 2010.

Generally speaking, within 2 years for whites. 5-10 for California Bordeaux style blends.

Higher tannins = longer shelf life. 

In my experience, (pouring professionally in a winery) John Q Public will wait approximately 24 hours to pop a cork! Most wines puchased at the winery are not aged in the bottle, but are newly released and benefit from a minimum of 3 months wait before opening. Hope this helps....

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 8, 2010.

The drink by dates on Snooth are very broad suggestions. they assume good storage condition, but also that you might prefer your wines on the younger side as well.

They are generally determined for a region and a vintage and then broken down by quality within that regfion. So, for example, a high end 2005 Pomerol will end up with the same drink by dates as a highend 2005 Pauillac. Not ideal but a good rough estimate.

If you have any specific wines I would be happy to offer more specific recomendations.

Reply by RexSeven, Oct 8, 2010.

I don't have any specific bottles in question.  I buy some wines online or in stores in 4 or 6's thinking I'll keep one or two for down the road.  You know, start a little wine cellar.  However, many of the drink by dates are right now or next year. I just don't want to waste wines by cellaring too long, but also would like to taste the aged product. 

Reply by dmcker, Oct 8, 2010.

Most of the drink-by dates are extremely conservative, and for proper aging I end up going past the end of them all the time. It also depends on who's making the recommendations. I always find it humorous when people are making the recommendations in their reviews that might be while drinking out of the barrel, not even in the bottle yet (with often a different blend from that barrel somehow ending up in bottle). Even the winemaker's reccs I take with a grain of salt since he/she has a vested interest in having you drink the wines up early (don't get me started on those in the bubbly trade).

That being said, there are a lot of wines in California and the rest of the New World that don't have the legs for longer aging. The way they've been made is focused towards early drinkability since that is the recognized behavior of the American consumer, and the characteristics conducive to longer maturing have been shorted. Still there are many wines in a subset of CA, etc. wines that not only can be aged but benefit from it.

So we get back to Greg's question about specific wines. You need to know the winemaker, his style, the conditions during that year's growth cycle in the vineyard, etc.

Reply by GregT, Oct 8, 2010.

OTOH, sometimes the drink dates are very serious.  If it says drink in 2014 that's what you should do.  If you drink it earlier, you may die.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 8, 2010.

Plus you haven't been doing what you're told! Bad boy (or girl)!

Reply by dynowine, Oct 9, 2010.

Drink dates - How are they determined?

    When he or she says "yes" and your schedules align.

How concrete are they?

    There is always a risk of being stood up.

Why do they vary so much within the same variety of wine?

    The chemistry of great wine is an imperfect substitute for personal chemistry, but it goes a long way in easing the pain.

Are they assuming proper temp, humidity and light control?

    Drink dates between people with good chemistry will likely be warm, steamy, and lightly if at all controlled.

Reply by schellbe, Oct 9, 2010.

I tend to like my wines older than what is recommended, although I got fooled by an over the hill OR Riesling from 2004 this year. Try some older wines from a good wine shop and see if you like them. If you decide you like aged wines, try to find a good place to cellar or store wines for ageing.

If you don't like older wines, just keep a few bottles around for current drinking, away from extreme heat and vibration.

Reply by GregT, Oct 9, 2010.

Hey dyno - maybe we should put those tips into a FAQ section.

Schelbe - the key word in your advice is "good" wine shop.  It's weird but half the stores in Manhattan and  most of the stores in New Jersey seem to cool off in the summer by opening the door.  Some of the wines have been sitting on the shelves for years collecting dust and heating and cooling with the seasons.  The most honest comment I ever got from a store owner was when I found a 1988 bottle of CA cab about six years ago and he said "No guarantees on that wine.  It's been in the store for a long time."

I still have it for some reason.  I'm thinking I'll open it at the 25 year mark, just to have some kind of random date. 

OTOH, I've opened many a bottle of relatively inexpensive wine made for early drinking, but well past the drink-by dates suggested by critics and writers and even the wineries.  Sometimes they're magnificent. Sometimes they're swill. 

In any event Rex, those dates are just guesses.  With luck they'll be made by people with a little experience with the wine, but they're still just guesses.  As Greg pointed out, in some areas we've got a track record that's fairly good and even have data on the kinds of vintages, so in some cases you can be pretty comfortable suggesting an aging curve for a wine.  In most cases, probably not. 

Moreover, most wine isn't made to be aged anyway - it's assumed that the buyer will consume it within a week of purchase.  Most people don't keep it more than a few weeks.  Some wine will hang on pretty well for a few years, even many years, but it won't really develop all that much.  Other wine just fades away or oxidizes.  And some wine transforms.  But that transformation isn't usually over four or five years, but many more years. 

Then you've got the question of whether you really like the wine older when you're getting the flavors that come from aging, or whether you prefer it younger, when it's still full of fruit and youth.  Neither is right.  I've got a friend who drinks his wines as old as they can be so that means 20, 30 years or more.  Other friends call him a necrophiliac.  They all have pretty good palates, just different preferences.  So that's another variable in your dates - the personal preferences of the person offering the advice.  Wine Spectator for example, as a policy will generally be conservative with their dates.  Frankly I think they're probably doing a service to their readers in that way, because most of their readers aren't likely to age their wine anyway, and because, as mentioned before, the dates are just guesses anyway.  Other critics are wildly optomistic and provide 100 year dates.  In some cases I know from experience that the wines aren't going to last more than a few years, so I think those kinds of predictions are irresponsible.  But they get attention and perhaps nobody is going to wait 100 years anyway.

Reply by Stephen Harvey, Oct 10, 2010.

My advice is never leave a wine past your date of death! or your kids will inherit it

Reply by zufrieden, Oct 10, 2010.

Drink up before the sands of time run out does seem to me sound advice.  The logic is certainly impeccable - if you want to savor those purchases.

 I confess that it has taken me a while to develop a sense (hardly scientific, I'm afraid) of when the little treasures in my own stash are coming of age.  But I find that you should be conservative regarding drink dates as some of my pundit friends have already suggested. You will be royally ticked off if your Super Second is "past it" after a long wait in the wings!

I've been there.

Make sure - as Greg and others have prudently pointed out - that you have some idea of the storage your wine has been subjected to.  If you have a cellar or large wine fridge the problem of controlling the aging process is less to the fore, but if not, you need to realize that heat is likely to speed up aging and may even damage the wine altogether.

If you don't have the room to store wines as they are meant to be stored, try to find older wines from merchants who have sensible cellaring habits.  You will pay more, but you will be able to drink up much sooner.

As for expert opinions on aging, the wine needs to have been tasted at least a year or two after bottling to provide a more credible sense of the future life of the wine.  Barrel samples help, but are less reliable. Look to at least 3 opinions, then try wines in their youth acquaint yourself with how particular wines age and what you ultimately want on your palate at the end of the experience. Not everyone really prefers the soft, supple and complex nature of properly aged wines (whether they admit it openly or not); many wine lovers enjoy the hard tannins and forward fruit of youth (I know many in France do).

But best of luck in your drink date estimates.  You'll get better at it over time.


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Oct 10, 2010.

On a serious note, I agree with all the advice above, but I do think it is good starting point to have a wine book by a writer you trust who has an opinion on when to drink a wine.  I use Jeremy Oliver for my Aussie wines and he usually gives a 5-10 year range for optimal drinking and if he thinks a wine may go longer he ends the range with a +  eg 2015-2023+

But at the end of the day you will be more dissappointed by old wines not going the distance than drinking a year or two too young.

There is an old saying "There are no great old wines just great old bottles"

Reply by dmcker, Oct 10, 2010.

Your last question, Stephen, points directly to the storage issue Zuf and others have mentioned (with the wildcard issue of a corked bottle set aside). If you know the provenance of the bottle, and have your own storage issues solved, I still stand by my statement that wines continue to mature past most any 'drink by' statements I've seen. There are too many vested interests involved for true estimations to see print. Talk to some of the people who make statements in print and you'll get entirely different dates in person, assuming they feel comfortable enough to be honest in the company at the time.

Again, I'm talking here about bottles that are made to age, and have been blessed by the right vintage (and I'm not only talking here about the blockbuster years that get so much media play). Certain varietals, certain vineyards and wineries, certain years aren't going to age that long. It still, then, comes around to doing your research, reading multiple sources that you can trust, and developing a feel and sensibility of your own.

Reply by johnnnykk, Nov 1, 2013.

Then again a wine could really throw you for a loop. Yesterday On Halloween I decided to open and pour out a bottle of 2 buck chuck chard from 2005 Holy Moly did I get the surprise of a life time. this bottle was given to me years ago and I just left it in the rack never thinking mmmmmm good I will drink this junk nor give it to anyone. Friends don't let friends 2 buck chuck. Anyway back to my amazement.  IT WAS NOT CORKED . 2005 Charles Shaw chard was actually drinkable and tasty in 2013. Some one has to tell me really....what are the odds

Reply by EMark, Nov 1, 2013.

Some one has to tell me really....what are the odds 

I would have guessed zero (actually, I would have stated it with much conviction), but apparently they are as high as infinitesimally small.

Reply by Tbandcwfjourney, Nov 1, 2013.

WOW...  In jan of this year we had a "cab" dinner.  Among others we had a  2006 Silver Oak Sonoma and just for the heck of it a 2002, yes 2002, 2 buck chuck.  $2 came in second to the Silver Oak.  We were very surprised I didn't have to cook with it!  As for storage I think it was OK by accident.  Our friend brought it from CA and put it in his basement.  Pretty consistent temp and un-disturbed.

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