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Wine/Wine Shelf Life


QUESTION: I have a couple of questions about wine shelf life. Who determines wine shelf life? Is it the reviewers or critics who tell consumers the drinking window on a given wine? How is the shelf life determined. Also, when shelf is determined, are the people who do it assuming that the wine is not being stored properly or a cellar?

ANSWER: HI Samantha

You have done a very good job of asking a very complicated question!

In general, the winemaker is the first person who suggests how the wine will age, and when it will be at its best.  But that's always a question of personal taste.  Younger wines have more fruit, but also more rough edges.  Older wines tend to soften those edges, and the fruit dies back a bit to provide more complexity.  But which one is better?  Only you can answer that question.  

Critics come into play as a second source of information about the wines, and they also have their own palates and opinions.  Some prefer that fruitier, younger style, while others prefer the complexities of older wines.  

In either case, they are assuming that the wines are stored correctly.  Even a single day where the wine bottle sits in the sun and gets very warm can pretty much ruin the life of a wine, and nobody makes predictions about a wine's life based on uncertain storage conditions.

One thing to remember:  Unless they spend a day in the sun, wines don't suddenly go "bad."    The transitions of age take place over time, and wineries often talk about a "window" of drinkability that may be years long.  

And just one more clarification.  Shelf life tends to mean that the wine will no longer be safe for consumption--and that's almost never a danger with wine.  The high acid and alcohol levels of wine make it pretty stable from that point of view.  That's why winemakers and critics use the term ageability, or drinking window to describe how a wine will age, and when it might be at its best.

I hope that helps!

Paul Wagner

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your response, I do have another question though. What are the most common marketing techniques used by wine makers?

Hi Samantha

Wow!  Another short question with a lot of answers! I actually wrote a book about wine I have 300 pages of suggestions...

Let's start with opening a tasting room, pouring at wine expos and events, doing market visits to key customers, advertising, sending wine samples to media, and donating to charity.

That's a good list to get you started!

Paul Wagner


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Paul Wagner


Wines of the world, wine a food matching, wine and food service questions. I currently teach Wine courses at Napa Valley College, am an international wine judge, written many articles for publication, and have been a guest speaker at way too many wine conferences to remember. 25 years in the business. With Liz Thach and Janeen Olsen, I authored the definitive book on wine marketing: Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market by The Wine Appreciation Guild, which won the Gourmand International Award in 2008 for the best wine book for professionals! With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio, I host a radio show and podcast called Bottletalk at, where I answer questions about wine and food on the air.


30 years in the business.

Society of Wine Educators, Academy of Wine Communications, American Wine Society

Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine, Fine Wine Journal, les Amis du Vin Journal, Society of Wine Educators Journal, and more.

I have taught at Napa Valley College for the last twenty years.

Awards and Honors
Spanish National Wine Fair: A lifetime dedicated to wine award. Espaderino della Castelania di Soave in Italy.

Past/Present Clients
Wineries include Caymus, Wente, Parducci, Shannon Ridge, Paul Dolan Wines, Vigilance, and others. Wine regions include the Union des Grand Crus de Borcdeaux, Union des Grands Crus de St. Emilion, Consorzio di Chianti CLassico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Consorzio di Franciacorta, Rioja Alavesa, and others.

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