Wine Questionary:

How long will wine keep on the wine rack?

How long will wine keep on your wine rack? There's no clear-cut answer, because so much depends on the specific kind of wine in question and on the storage conditions under which you are able to keep it.

In fact, very few wines are meant for aging. About 99 percent of the world's wines -- particularly those from the budget shelf -- should be drunk up promptly, while they are young and fresh. Most wines don't mature gracefully with age but simply lose their fresh fruit and become dull and tired. They are best enjoyed within a year of purchase.

The few wines that do merit "cellaring" are the sturdy reds, ranging from French Bordeaux and Rhones to the high-end Cabernet Sauvignons from California and Australia and some of the best Italian and Spanish reds. These are the wines most likely to mellow into a memorable, balanced complexity, given careful aging under good cellar conditions.

Fine wine should be kept in a cool, quiet place, lying on its side so the cork stays wet. A constant temperature of 55F (13C) is strongly preferred, but hard to attain in a modern home unless you have a natural wine cellar or expensive wine-refrigeration unit. Lacking this, if you can't keep your wine below 70F (21C), I don't recommend trying to cellar your wines for longer than five years or so. (Keeping wine in the refrigerator is not recommended for the long term, because it's too cold, and the frequent vibration of the compressor motor may be bad for the wine.)

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