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How Long Do You Wait Before Drinking?

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NorCal

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I have to say that I am not the most patient person in the world, but by virtue of making too much wine, I have wine that I cannot get to for a few years. I would say that I start the day it is bottled and I finished 90% of the bottles within a year.
The reason I say this is that I made a Zin in 2015. The grapes weren't all that great, it really didn't taste all that great to me, however it won a Silver at the CA State Fair. A buddy, who ended up getting a number of cases sent me an email yesterday saying how good it was. I cracked one of my 20 or so left and sure enough, it was pretty darn good, so much better than what I remembered. I am wishing now I didn't make wine coolers and sangria out of a good number of those bottles.
 

sour_grapes

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But to answer the question seriously, here is what I do. For reds, I wait 1.5 years after pitching yeast to put it in my drinking rotation. (I may have a bottle after ~1 yr to see how it is doing.) Then, assuming it is now drinkable, I decide how long I want to drink this over. I have generally said something like 4 years. So then I drink the bottles at ~even intervals over the next four years. If, at any time during that period, I decide I want to age it longer, or, to the contrary, it is going downhill, I adjust the "date of last bottle consumed" up or down.

I know you are a spreadsheet guy. I have a spreadsheet developed that tracks all of this, and it tells me which of my bottles is next in line to be sacrificed.

For whites, I usually drink 'em all (or nearly so) the summer after I make them.
 

dralarms

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Ok, ok. It depends on the wine. My concord is good at 6 months in the bottle, but I had a peach that was nasty until 2 years+. Most of my wine it’s around 12 to 16 months in the bottle. Dang I’ve come a long way from bottling and then start drinking right away.
 

tjgaul

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I've been trying to age the whites 2-4 months in the carboy and then get started drinking them about a month after bottling. A batch tends to have a shelf life of 12 months if it's lucky. I've employed an alternate strategy with a few of the reds. On the 2nd or 3rd racking I go down to 5 gal and steal a gal to make a small 3 gal blend batch which gets bottled after 6-8 weeks and which is fair game immediately. This way I get to play winemaker a bit more (blending to taste), plus I get 15 bottles to enjoy somewhat young while I wait for the rest of the batch to finish aging (about a year in the carboy).

The tasting room at our house opens at 10:30 on Saturdays. I really prefer to make blending, back sweetening and oaking decisions based on morning tastings. The palette is much fresher then. And, as Sour Grapes noted, you can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning.
 

sour_grapes

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On the 2nd or 3rd racking I go down to 5 gal and steal a gal to make a small 3 gal blend batch which gets bottled after 6-8 weeks and which is fair game immediately.
I rather like that idea. Clever!
 

Donatelo

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I started this hobby in October of last year. I have made 4 one-gallon batches of Welches Concord grape wine in that time I still have six bottles and a gallon aging in the cellar. The recipe said that is should be drinkable at 6 to 8 weeks after primary fermentation. I make this as a drinker to keep me away from my Peach Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and now my new batch of Merlot. I have 15 bottles of Dragons blood that I can drink now, with an age of 3 months on it.
In the long run it depends on the type of wine and what quality you are trying to achieve. I'd prefer to wait at least six months before opening anything , but that has not happened yet. Ask me in a year.
 

dcbrown73

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I have to say that I am not the most patient person in the world, but by virtue of making too much wine, I have wine that I cannot get to for a few years. I would say that I start the day it is bottled and I finished 90% of the bottles within a year.
The reason I say this is that I made a Zin in 2015. The grapes weren't all that great, it really didn't taste all that great to me, however it won a Silver at the CA State Fair. A buddy, who ended up getting a number of cases sent me an email yesterday saying how good it was. I cracked one of my 20 or so left and sure enough, it was pretty darn good, so much better than what I remembered. I am wishing now I didn't make wine coolers and sangria out of a good number of those bottles.
I just had a similar experience though I'm very inexperienced. One of the first wines I made was a chardonnay. Out of the around 32 bottles made. I drank them all within maybe five months since I had bottled it six months after fermentation. (so barely over a year old) I had a few 750s and two 375ml left that I buried in my closet to not drink them. They are now two years old and the last time I remember drinking one was a year ago. It's night and day the difference from the notes I wrote down. I mean, there is some similarities, but the wine's fruit softened and it's complexity and depth grew.

It never tasted bad, but it definitely got better. This was a white, (non-filtered bottled at six months, so it has some white floaties now) I can only imagine what more years could do to one of my reds...
 

balatonwine

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Wine making has taught me the importance of patience. Wine growing even more so: I am itching to harvest and make wine. But, no, I can not harvest yet. I need to let the fruit hang more to make a better wine. Patience gives enormous dividends in wine making.

I mostly make white wines. They are drinkable on bottling day. And, yes, I do drink some then. But they will be better after 6 to 12 months in the bottle. They should be consumed within 3 years.
 

Jack7033

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As wine makers we all learn the hard way. I have learned that I need to wait at least 3 years, best is five, on reds. And at least one year on whites. I belong to the Rochester Area Home Winemakers Club and we all have learned the hard way. Bottle number 28 from a 6 gallon carboy is so much better than the first few. There is a reason you can’t find a 3 year old Brunello in the wine store. They don’t ship until 4 or 5 years old. They have learned something over the last few hundred years.
 

JohnT

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OK, @jgmann67

What was it about your Zin that you did not like? If too sharp or tannic, then you can assume that there is a benefit to aging.

Like @dralarms said, it really does depend on the wine. It is common to take 5 or 6 years for a Zinfandel to peak. I remember reading that this was one of the reasons for the production of so much white zin. Winemakers simply did not want to hold their red zin for so long. White zin can hit the market as early as 8 months or even earlier.

As a SOP, I age my wines a minimum of 18 months. There have been batches, however, that were deemed "bottle ready" in as little as a year.

And IMHO the winning suggestion is by @jgmann67 ! Make MORE!!! I have it worked out so that at the point where 70% of a vintage is consumed, it is time to bottle the next one. Call it "over-lap".

I do have bottles in my cellar that are 12+years old. At that age, the odd bottle can be found to have "gone off". On the other hand, I have some that are much, much, older. I still have about a case of my 1995 Cab that I bring out during crush. Surprisingly, it is still quite good, although faded.

One final note. I am deeply offended by the cavalier use of the work "DRINKING"!!!!!
If you are sipping wine BEFORE 12 am, it is "TASTE-TESTING"... I would even accept the term "Quality Control". Get your terms straight folks!! :)
 

bkisel

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Smaller kits 2 months bulk age then 2 months bottle age then start drinking. About the same with fruit/country wines. For larger kits 3 months bulk age followed by 3 months bottle aging. I have, as suggested by someone here, begun to hold out a bottle or two from each batch for longer aging.
 

Donatelo

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I am a newbie at this, but I am learning. If I bottle a Chardonnay, the kit I made it from says drinkable after bottling. Do I still have bottles of it in the cellar? Sure, about 12 out of a 30 bottle run. My Welch's Concord wine is drinkable after about a month, but all my wines are much better aged.
Currently, I have 3 gallons of Gewurzt, one gallon of Welch's and 3 gallons of white Cranberry ageing for another 2 months. I have 6 gallons of Merlot fermenting to dry and am about to start a 6 gallon Peach/ apricot Chardonnay. None of this is older than 5 months. Do you think I'm going to sit at this desk and twiddle my thumbs for a year, waiting to open a bottle? Of course not. I have 12 bottles of Chardonnay, 6 bottles of Welch's, 10 bottles of Dragons blood and some that I bought at the winery here. I am going to drink it all some day. Not all on the same day but some every day. If some reaches the one year mark, Great!
 

jgmann67

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OK, @jgmann67

What was it about your Zin that you did not like? If too sharp or tannic, then you can assume that there is a benefit to aging.

Did I say I didn’t like my Zin?? I don’t recall. I have a Lodi Old Vin Eclipse kit that’s about 2 years old and is just starting to get good. It isn’t as jammy as I was hoping. But it’s still pretty good.

I think next year’s fresh from grapes wine from California will be a Zin. See if I can get the kind of peppery/jammy Zin I like.
 

bein_bein

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I usually let my wines sit in the carboy at least 3 months or more, racking as needed. Once it's bottled I will wait at least 3 months before drinking any. Ideally I like to wait every 6 months; open a bottle after 6month, then 1 year, 18 months...so on. I make mostly fruit and veggie wines which seem to peak in flavor between 2-3years of age. Then the flavors begin to 'flatten'.
That's my favorite part winemaking, seeing how the flavor profile changes. In the early stages the different flavors are well defined with, what I call 'edges'. As the wine ages the 'edges' soften, the lines between flavors and blend more creating new nuances....That being said, the sad part is when a wine reaches it peak, and you open a bottle expecting a palate party....only to find the main event is only a shadow of it's former glory.... :oops: :s
:)
 

JohnT

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Did I say I didn’t like my Zin?? I don’t recall. I have a Lodi Old Vin Eclipse kit that’s about 2 years old and is just starting to get good. It isn’t as jammy as I was hoping. But it’s still pretty good.

I think next year’s fresh from grapes wine from California will be a Zin. See if I can get the kind of peppery/jammy Zin I like.

Sorry.. It was @NorCal . Put you down by accident.
 

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