Cheap Buzz: No wine before its time

Posted: March 29, 2012

WELCOME TO Cheap Buzz, where we eavesdrop as sommelier Marnie Old attempts to teach the joys of wine and fine spirits to Buzz, a guy with no sophistication and not much money. Here's their latest conversation:

Buzz: Hey, Marnie, I was watching "Frasier" reruns and they were going on about whether some expensive wines were "drinkable" or not. What kind of moron drops a bundle on wine that's not good enough to drink?

Marnie: People who are into wine have their own lingo for it, just like you do for baseball. All wines are good enough to drink by definition. A wine that's "drinkable" is ready to drink.

Buzz: I'm always ready to drink, especially on weekends.

Marnie: No kidding. This is about the wine's maturity, though, not your state of mind. Wines need time to "rest" after winemaking, sort of like cheeses do. Most whites and bargain reds are aged for only a few months before bottling. Premium reds and sparkling wines might need to mature for a few years, often in barrels, before they're sold. They gain complexity through aging.

Buzz: Yeah, things have gotten more complex as I've aged.

Marnie: To be complex is a good thing in wine. Great wines feature an interplay of multiple flavors, scents and textures. The vast majority of wines are already "drinkable" when they hit the shelves. However, a tiny fraction of the very best wines are sold before they reach their peak, designed to improve with aging in a wine cellar. When someone says a wine's not "drinkable," they don't mean it won't taste good. They mean it is not yet fully mature, not yet tasting its best.

Buzz: How would I know if my wine's ready? Does the label say when to open it?

Marnie: Unfortunately not. But you don't have to worry about this, Buzz. Chances are you won't run into any wines designed for cellaring unless you're spending at least $40 or $50 a bottle.

Buzz: For that price, I'd rather snag an outfield seat to see the Phils and grab a beer. It won't be fully mature, but it'll be "drinkable."

Marnie Old is Philadelphia's highest-profile sommelier. She blogs at sauceblog.marnieold.com. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News City Editor Gar Joseph.

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