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Barrels of pinot noir are stacked at Haygrove Evolution's Sixteen Ridges Winery in Ledbury, England, on Nov. 12, 2020.DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

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Modern winemaking styles have evolved to suit consumers’ tastes. In a world where a majority of wine bottles are opened within hours of purchase, winemakers have worked behind the scenes to produce wines that are enjoyable upon release. As a result, most wines are not only ready to drink when you buy them, they’re unlikely to improve significantly with age. But traditional styles of wines continue to be crafted to reach their peak after extended aging in bottle.

Writing tasting notes for either requires one to taste and draw conclusions based on the sum of their experience. If tasting a young wine out of barrel or bottle, you can consider the structure, acidity, balance, and intensity of aroma and flavours to gauge its quality and drinking window. Suggestions about when to drink for best enjoyment is an estimate based on how similar styles of wine have evolved.

Advances in grape-growing and fermentation have helped vintners produce red wines that don’t need time to mellow or soften, like the robust and tannic wine style that defines the classic age-worthy bottles from European and New World regions. Fine wines from regions such as Napa, Bordeaux or Brunello aren’t made with instant gratification in mind. They are blended from individual barrels of wines that are evaluated based on their quality and development. For rare and collectable wines, the ability to age helps to justify their price – along with cost of production, distribution retail mark-ups, rarity and demand.

No components in a wine are static. Acids and alcohols in the solution form different compounds, and flavours develop from primarily fruity notes, like strawberry in sangiovese or cassis in cabernet, to ones suggesting leather, mushroom or earth. Winemakers constantly taste through the various barrels of wine available to them, looking to access how they taste and where they can be used for best effect. Wine from a barrel that is showing nice juicy fruit character might be earmarked as something for earlier release, while a more brooding and firmly structured sample is more likely to be left to develop more richness and character and end up in a more expensive, reserve bottling.

In instances when a bottle of wine comes to market that are sure to offer more enjoyment after some time in the cellar – say, the recent released Brunellos from 2015 or the highly sought-after single-vineyard wines from Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti – professional tasters offer their considered opinion about when it will start to reveal its true character. These estimates are typically conservative appraisals. Depending on the styles of wine you enjoy, your tastes might be different.

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