The 411 on Storing Wine: Does It Ever Expire?

blog_tuesWhen you’re shopping for milk, what’s the first thing you check on the container?

The expiration date — right?

Same thing with a container of yogurt, or a loaf of bread, or a package of meat, or a can of soup. Almost every item we buy in a supermarket comes with a “use-by date” stamped on it.

So why not wine?

It’s a good question, and the answer is somewhat complicated. That’s because people think of “use-by dates” in different ways.

For some, that date is almost written in stone, meaning that they won’t take a sip of milk that’s even one day older than the date stamped on its container. Others use the date more as a “suggestion,” a reminder that an item needs to be consumed sooner rather than later. They may organize their pantries, in part, by the dates on the packages.

But developing a universally agreed upon “use-by date” for wine is next to impossible because there are so many variables involved. The factors include:

* The variety. Each grape variety is chemically unique, and that means it will age at its own pace — in some cases gracefully, in some cases quickly.

* The vintage. No two growing seasons are the same, and while the differences may not be extreme, they can have an impact on how long the resulting wine will age.

* Storage conditions. This factor has perhaps the greatest impact on a wine’s potential life span. A wine aged in a temperature-controlled, humidity-controlled and light-limited area will enjoy a longer shelf life than one subjected to heat, too much humidity and sunlight.

Just as a “use-by date” is meaningful for milk or yogurt only if they’re properly stored in a refrigerator, such a date for wine would be useful only if the bottle is protected from heat, humidity and light.

Even then, there are so many other variables that developing a universally accepted system for dating wines is next to impossible. That’s why we depend on the experience of winemakers who have numerous harvests under their belts to suggest time frames for the wines they craft.

And that’s why you’ll find a “When to Drink” line included with every Tasting Note on every wine from Vinesse.

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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