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Wine Secrets
Become a Wine Expert.

Knowing When to Drink It
A good rule of thumb is, if the wine retails for less than $25, it's probably ready to drink. Wines above this price point are usually made with better quality grapes grown in better conditions, both of which tend to push the price up. With quality often comes aging potential. Remember, the vast majority of wines are ready to drink upon bottling.

Knowing When to Drink It
Knowing when to drink a wine depends on your ability to detect the fruit concentration, tannin, acidity, and alcohol, and the balance of these four elements. Fruit concentration and tannin diminish as wine ages, while acidity and alcohol remain constant. So, a wine with more fruit and tannin than acidity and alcohol can improve with age.

Knowing When to Drink It
When fruit concentration and tannin are in balance with acidity and alcohol, a wine is ready to drink. Once these elements are balanced, a wine will stay that way—or "keep"—for a period of time, the length of which varies.

Knowing When to Drink It
Building on the last couple of secrets, fruit concentration is perceived midpalate as flavor intensity. Tannins are felt around the gums as a drying sensation, much like the sensation of drinking strong black tea. Acidity is detected as sourness felt on the sides of the tongue making you salivate. And alcohol is felt as heat on the back of the palate, particularly after swallowing.

Knowing When to Drink It
Knowing when an ageworthy wine is ready to drink is fairly subjective. Some people like their wines youthful, uncomplicated, and fresh tasting, while others prefer the more subtle levels of complexity that come with maturity.

Knowing When to Drink It
Some grape varieties keep better than others and thus age more gracefully. A few reds that tend to age well are Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo (the grape of Barolo and Barbaresco wines), and Pinot Noir. Gamay and Cabernet Franc on the other hand are notoriously best drank young.

Knowing When to Drink It
Whites generally don't age as well as reds because they lack tannin. Tannin present in red wine is a natural preservative.

Knowing When to Drink It
Some white wines can improve with time in bottle, particularly those made from Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay grapes, as long as they've been made well and have sufficient concentrations of fruit.

Knowing When to Drink It
Champagne can age for decades. Vintage Champagne, which is usually made from the best fruit of the best years, has the most potential to improve in bottle. Look to better quality producers for stuff to lie down.

Knowing When to Drink It
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish low quality wine that's harsh tasting from that which is high quality but not ready to drink. Both will have chewy tannins and frankly will be unpleasant to drink. One clue can be the price. But the most accurate way to tell is by judging the balance of the wine yourself. A low quality wine will show low fruit concentration relative to the tannins, acidity, and alcohol, while a high quality one will be comparatively rich in fruit.

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