Maybe it’s a Chianti Classico only available in a winery you toured during a dream trip to Tuscany. Or a cult cabernet from a boutique vineyard in Napa that a relative gave you for a milestone birthday. Or a splurge purchase after an unexpected work bonus. Whatever the situation, there’s a good chance you have a bottle gathering dust on your shelf that you haven’t yet been able to bring yourself to uncork.
These are eight reasons why you should give yourself permission to indulge. After all, if right now isn’t the time, when will be?
1. It Needs to Age Longer
Despite what you might think, most wine is meant to be consumed within a few years. (And sparkling wine is ready to drink as soon as you buy it.) Ronald Buyukliev, the lead sommelier at Estiatorio Milos at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, points out that it’s counterproductive to think that only one moment in time exists when a wine is at its prime. “There are several different windows that will offer different expressions of the wine. … It’s in a good window if you open it and enjoy it.”
Robert Daugherty, a winemaker for Winc, agrees. “Wine is an ever-evolving piece of edible art,” he says. “Even if it’s not at its ‘peak age,’ there will always be something to love and appreciate about it.” And there’s a quick fix for wine drinkers who just can’t wait, according to Cam Ward, the vintner and co-proprietor of Vineyard 36. “Patience isn’t my specialty; I prefer to enjoy young wines by simply decanting them,” he says.
2. You’re Waiting for a Special Occasion
Who says that a special wine can’t be the occasion? The right bottle can elevate ground-beef-stuffed tortillas on taco Tuesday just as much as it can truffle-butter-topped grilled rib-eyes on Saturday and everything in-between. “Sometimes spontaneity … gives you an excuse to celebrate the here and now, which is where we are best suited to live,” says Daugherty.
3. It’s a Souvenir from a Special Trip
Wine may be ephemeral, but the memories of the experience it stirs up are not. “When you open the bottle, it brings you a vivid recollection of the time you had,” says Buyukliev. “Uncork the bottle and savor it as it takes you to that place.” Besides, waiting too long could lead to disappointment, according to Amy Racine, the beverage director for JF Restaurants. “If you save it too long, it might not be as you remember it,” she says. There’s a caveat you should bear in mind, however: The wine might not taste exactly as it did on your trip anyway, thanks to the “Provence rosé effect,” an anecdotal phenomenon that says the pink wine you brought back from the South of France won’t taste nearly as good in your apartment kitchen as it did on a sunny picnic next to a lavender field. Context is everything.
4. You Don’t Have the Right Food Pairing
Don’t get caught up on stuffy outdated adages like white wine with fish and red wine with meat. In fact, relinquish the notion that you have to serve anything at all. “Many wines are great to drink without food,” says Michael Biddick, the owner and head sommelier of Blend 111 in Vienna, Va. “In France, there’s even a distinction for it, ‘vin de soif,’ which means ‘wine to drink when you are thirsty.’” If you’re feeling a bit peckish, take a chance on whatever’s on the table. The unexpected synergy just might surprise you. Also keep in mind that as long as you aren’t drinking alone, you can always be assured of the perfect partner with your vino. “The best pairing is always people,” says Daugherty.
5. It’s Not the Right Temperature
People tend to serve their reds too warm and their whites too cold; the former exacerbates the heat of the alcohol content, while the latter dulls aromas and flavors. Either situation can be remedied pretty quickly by sticking the red in the fridge or the white out on the counter for a few minutes. If you completely forgot to chill your white, rosé or bubbly or if it’s barely cool, put it in a bucket of ice and water for 15 minutes. If you’re jonesing for a splash in the meantime, “maybe pour one ounce and chill the rest further, but wait the extra 15 minutes to do the wine justice,” says Racine.
6. The Cork Is Dry So the Wine Is Probably Bad
Storing a wine for weeks or months in the refrigerator, in a hot and dry place or upright rather than on its side can dry out the cork, allowing oxygen to enter the bottle and potentially leading to rapid aging and spoilage. But the effects aren’t always catastrophic, and a little oxidation can actually benefit some wines. Since it’s not going to hurt you to drink it, give it a try. “Find something to love about it regardless,” says Daugherty. “I often open bottles that have ‘gone bad’ but become fixated on something great about it, like texture or color.” Wine can evolve in fascinating ways.
7. You Have No Idea What It Is, Where You Got It or How Long You’ve Had It
A host gift from a dinner party you hosted in the summer of 2016? Loot from an office holiday gift exchange last year? Maybe you haven’t a clue as to how the bottle ended up in your possession, let alone whether it’s mass-produced plonk or super rare and allocated. You could play the odds and open it up or search for it on an app such as Vivino or ask an expert. “It could be something really special, [so] check with a wine professional to see what info they have and take it from there,” says Racine.
8. You Need to Wait for Your Wine Expert Friends to Join You
While you might feel compelled to invite over a neighbor who rattles off scores and peppers wine conversations with phrases like “tannic structure” and “carbonic maceration,” that can lead to anxiety over increased expectations. “The best evaluation is either you like it or you don’t,” says Ward. “Don’t get overwhelmed by feeling the need to break down the wine as an expert would.” Wine is a subjective, personal experience. “While inviting friends to share a great bottle of wine is always a good idea, don’t hold a bottle for an ‘expert’ to tell you why it’s good,” says Biddick. “Ultimately, winemakers want people to enjoy drinking their wine, not to appreciate it like a museum piece in the Louvre.”