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  • Writer's pictureThe Butler

How do you know if a red wine is ready to drink?

There is no such thing as a good wine, only good bottles, as the saying goes. Opening a bottle of wine at the right time allows you to appreciate its full potential. Follow our advice on how to aim for the right moment.

Differentiating between thirst-quenching wines and wines for laying down

Thirsty reds are meant to be tasted when young, with their ruby or even violet hues, the promise of fruity, crisp fruit. These wines, generally not very mature, often without wood, with little tannin, give an account of their grape variety around primary aromas of strawberry, raspberry, fresh fruit and flowers. On the other hand, the wines for laying down, most often aged in barrels, with more consistent tannins, deserve to be kept in the cellar for at least five years, the time it takes for their substance to melt.

Opening bottles from the same box at different times

When buying, it is advisable to buy by six bottles, or at least by three, in order to evaluate the wine along the way by opening a bottle from time to time. This allows you not to miss out on its decline and to open it at its peak, and also to taste it according to your personal taste, as you may prefer young wines or, on the contrary, more evolved wines, with notes of leather, dried flowers, old rose or smoke.

Region, appellation and vintage, the criteria for evaluating the maturity of a wine

This is the matrix that is closest to the truth, if not perfectly accurate. Crossing the vintage with the appellation allows you to identify the best tasting window. Depending on the region - Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Languedoc, etc. - and the appellation, the best time to taste the wine is when the vintage and the appellation are the same. Depending on the region - Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Languedoc, etc. - and the appellation, depending on the vintage, we can target a wine's ageing potential and optimal opening. Knowing of course that great years will always go further than small ones, and that a small vintage will not improve with time. It's all a question of taste, too, because if you appreciate fine, classically made Bordeaux, you'll enjoy it as early as 2014, or even more so in 2016, when you'll still have to wait to open your 2015s or even 2010s.

It is better to open a wine too early than too late

One truth remains: It is better to open a wine too young than too old! A bottle that is still full of fruit and sap, that you can feel has not yet given its all, will be much less disappointing than a wine that is faded and worn out by the years. As wine is meant to be drunk and shared, it is perfectly possible to open a beautiful bottle that gives us pleasure to create a moment of conviviality, even if it has not completely reached its optimum. Close to its goal, it will certainly delight everyone.

How can you be sure to open your wine at the right time?

If you are nervous about opening a bottle, you can refer to the winemaker, either directly when you buy the wine, or by contacting him to ask him about the best tasting arc. Generally, at the time of checkout, the wine merchant or salesperson will tell you about the wine's shelf life and peak. Alternatively, you can consult the ageing potential of wines in the same category (appellation and vintage) in specialised guides or websites.

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