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I know, I know: You’re a wine “collector.” I understand. You have a man-cave filled with treasures that only get more valuable with age: the baseball cards behind glass, the signed championship balls, the game jerseys in the trophy cabinet. But still-full wooden wine cases stamped 1980? Those might as well be caskets for the dead wine inside.
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Here’s the deal. Unlike your vintage 1953 New York Yankees Yogi Berra card, that case of 2001 North Coast Chardonnay you put away upon release is not getting more valuable—it’s getting ready to make vinaigrette. I do have to confess, though, that I myself am a reformed idiot, having killed any number of great wines (though not in the volume I behold in many collectors’ cellars). Back when I had money—i.e., before I had a slave-to-fashion wife and two ravenous kids in private school—I bought a couple of cases of fine Bordeaux from the 1989 vintage. I drank most of those delicious bottles sporadically over the next 20 years, but saved a six-pack of Château Lynch-Bages for a milestone wedding anniversary two years ago. I cooked a great meal. I invited twelve friends to gather around our table. Then I proceeded to open one mediocre bottle after the other, all of them thoroughly past their prime. I hadn’t even planned to open all six, but had to keep going to find at least one great one, which never materialized. Lesson learned.
The problem is that wines are not like those roaster chickens with the white button that pops up when they’re ready to serve. The truth is that there’s only one way to tell if your wine is aging well: That’s to taste it! Unearth the bottle, pull the cork, and pour. If you have a whole case on hand, that means you have 12 annual opportunities to experience your wine as it evolves. You’ll eradicate your chances of sitting on cases of dead wine in your cellar, plus you’ll have a lot of fun along the way. Sure, you’ll eventually run out of bottles—but as Yogi Berra would tell you, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”