Drinking Older Domestic Pinot Noir Has Taught Me A Few Lessons
I have been trying to drink down my wine cellar that contains quite a bit of aged domestic Pinot Noir. Most
domestic Pinot Noir is ready to drink upon release because the wines are usually not created with aging in
mind. The winemaking techniques in fashion over the past two decades favor fruitiness and freshness, not
the extraction of the polyphenols such as tannins needed for a wine to age well.
Only quality Pinot Noir evolves into something more interesting than it was in its youth. Wines that are of poor
quality when young will not be expected to improve simply by cellaring them - a wine cellar is not a wine
hospital. Poorly balanced Pinot Noir may show exaggeration of elements that were not harmonious upon
release, such as oak and alcohol as the fruit fades. In addition, faults in wine may exaggerate over time.
1. Decanting is always advisable unless the Pinot Noir is over ten years of age. I find that Pinot Noir almost
never shows its true character immediately upon pulling the cork. Remove the cork in the morning on a day
you plan to drink the wine with dinner. Decant it and put it back in the bottle with a funnel and re-cork until
2. I believe many winemakers feel their Pinot Noir wines are best drunk in the 5 to 7-year post-vintage range
and I agree with this dictum as domestic Pinot Noir will not usually improve beyond this time. Aging beyond
seven years is only an option for gamblers or those who delight in tertiary characters.
3. That said, I have found more surprises than disappointments after opening well-aged bottles recently and
many wines are still superb 10 to 15 years after the vintage. I must qualify this by pointing out that I am only
opening ultra-premium examples of Pinot Noir stored since release at 55º.
4. Old corks are fragile and may be dried out so use caution and patience in extracting them.
5. Always have a backup wine because you never know.
No one can predict Pinot Noir’s apogee. Do not be encumbered by worrisome thoughts about how long to
cellar a domestic Pinot Noir. Just pop the cork when you feel like drinking the wine. It is the gospel truth that it
is better to drink a domestic Pinot Noir too early than too late. Better to revel in the joy of youthfulness than the
decrepitude of old age!