How long should you keep a bottle of wine before drinking it? That’s one of those ‘how long is a piece of string?’ questions! Of course, it depends on the wine – most whites are probably best within a year of purchase, most reds within 2 years – but also on your personal taste. A friend of ours thinks we drink our wine too young, whereas I think that many of the bottles he opens are passed their peak. We’ll never agree, but that’s the beauty of wine.
And, although I said that most wines are best within a year or two, there are definitely some – mainly reds, but also quite a few whites – that will only improve for keeping. Which ones? Try looking at the back label which may recommend drinking dates. Otherwise ask a reliable wine merchant or you may be able to check on-line (but always bear in mind what I said above about personal preferences).
I’ve had a bottle of Meerlust Red 2011 from Stellenbosch in South Africa sitting quietly in a wine rack under the stairs for at least a couple of years and, as the label recommended drinking within 8 years of the vintage, I decided recently that now was the time to uncork it – especially as we were having some good friends to dinner who I knew would appreciate it (another important consideration when thinking when to open a bottle!)
This lovely, rich and flavoursome blend of 4 of the Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) was, most definitely, drinking well now. Even so, I took the precaution of decanting a couple of hours in advance to let a little air finish the process. The ripe, red fruit flavours were beautifully vibrant and, despite the warmth of Stellenbosch being reflected in 14% alcohol, there was no burn to the wine, all was nicely in balance.
My one regret: it’s the only bottle of this wine I bought and I can see it still drinking well five or more years from now – for my taste, that target of 2019 shown on the back label looks a bit conservative.