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Drinking windows

A reader asks:

Chris, was your impression of the ’04 Leoville Poyferre that it was
close to drinking? Have you thought about adding drinking windows onto
your notes?

My reply:

I think drinking windows are incredibly variable between tasters so I don’t think they are much use. For example I wouldn’t expect any decent classed growth Bordeaux to be drinking well until 12-15 years after the vintage, but others – perhaps you – are loking to drink them at 6 years of age. I’m experimenting with 2003 ad have found one or two ready now, but more still needing time, and will do the same with 2002, but I expect even this atypical/lesser vintages will in most cases need 12-15 years or more. For that reason I’m not sure drinking windows are very useful as they reflect my preferences far more than being a intrinsic aspect of the wine.

Drinking windows published by other critics are also embarassingly different to the figures I would proffer. Some (naming no names!) have a lot of Bordeaux starting to drink just when I think it is pretty closed and has them finishing far too early, like one or two decades too early. Most drinking windows given by critics seem to be far too short.

As for the 2004 Léoville-Poyferré I think you can guess what I am going to say! :-) For my palate (and this is important as I have some in the cellar IIRC), I won’t be touching these until 2014 at the earliest, more likely somewhere between 2016-2019. If you have 6/12 though perhaps consider opening one sooner – it might be you prefer these wines younger, which would save you a lot of waiting!

Best regards

Chris

Are there any opinions out there on this? Do people find drinking windows useful? When I read windows from certain other critics they tend to raise a smile rather than be useful – for me, they open too soon and close far too soon. Am I alone?

4 Responses to “Drinking windows”

  1. I think that drinking windows would be very useful, even if very different from other writers. One could always look for a sort of average, or a minimum level, and also adjust for the personal preferences and habits of the writer and consumer. They can also be useful as a relative rather than absolute tool, which wine to drink first (even though I suppose you can reliably start with the lesser chateaux). Also useful when buying old bottles outside glorious vintages or well-known regions. The important thing is that you declare your taste, which you did.

  2. Thanks Luca. Do you think a drinking window should start with (a) the wine is approachable but not its best or (b) the wine is totally ready with integrated tannins, now on its drinking ‘plateau’?

  3. Chris, I’d like to say (a) because otherwise I’d have to wait a few more years before touching anything in my cellar…I guess there are two factors: i) the astringency of the tannins (which can be decanted or moderated by appropriate food), and ii) the nose shut down, for which I think there is nothing to do. I would not want to open a bottle in stage ii), but coudl live with i). However information on ii) is more of a tasting note than a drinking window…

  4. Hi Chris,

    I think that adding a drinking window can be really helpfull. And not like some give it a kind of expiration date (drink between 2010-2020), which does not say much. As you mentioned, everyone has a different taste.

    But giving your personal opinion in words can say much more about the maturity of the wine. And it can be fully integrated in your tasting notes. For example, a bottle of Bordeaux GGC 2004 that is in a akward phase to hold, or a basic Chinon 2007 that will not get any better to drink, or a Chateauneuf 98 that is on the right spot to be enjoyed.
    And the readers will know your personal opinion about the maturity at the moment that you have written the note.

    Reading such information about a bottle you are thinking of opening is much more valuable that reading when the bottle “will expire”.

    So actually, it could be (a) but also (b), regarding when you are drinking the bottle. For a young wine (a) would be usefull, and for mature bottles (b).

    Just my opinion about this topic.
    Best regards