Download &
print (pdf)

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.

Lessons learned:

    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 dinner.

    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!

Previous article:

Print entire newsletter