Wines closing down

Prompted by a reserves bill …

Is there any way of telling from TWS descriptions and/or drink dates about which wines are likely to go through a closed phase? I’m thinking of wines like Gruner Veltliner that drink well immediately and then shut down, where TWS drink dates just say something like ‘drink 2021-30’ - implying linear development over ten years.

Caveat: I realise this is somewhat subjective (which might provide the answer) but whereas wines with linear development are ‘easier’ (young red means fruitier, older red means tertiary etc) it’s the wines that are open/closed/open that are not currently well served. Occasionally the buyer’s notes have a comment but it’s by by no means the norm.

Any suggestions? What would you like to see?


It’s subjective, and I’m sure sometimes imaginery. To be really cynical, a wine is often said to be closed when it is opened for friends and it disappoints.

I know what experts say about closed periods, and ideas about how they come about, but I’ve never been able to detect it myself. If you think about it, it is quite difficult to do. You must carefully follow the development of a case of wine over long period, and allow for bottle variation (especially with wines under cork), mood and food differences, other different drinking conditions, and memory over a long period.

There are a few screwcapped wines I have bought by the case and drunk within several months, and the difference in drinking experience between bottles is truly remarkable. Same case, same storage conditions, same glass. That might well be explained by other external factors I could control if necessary, but in real life I’d prefer to drink the wine rather than perform an experiment.

In summary, the general path of wines from secondary to tertiary is clear to me, but I am sceptical about closed-periods. However, I’m still open minded - particularly to any scientific evidence.


Your questions are difficult to answer because it is likely that I will be making generalisations which always hope to be universal truths but turn out to be wide ranging over simplifications!
As a starting point reds tend to be more likely to shut down at some point because of tannins resolving and oxygen affecting the anthocyanins. Red Burgundies are the prime suspect in this regard but the shutting down occurs somewhere between two and six years in bottle, and varies between regional wines and top grand crus.
I have also had some grumpy Bordeaux drunk in the same time frame and some disappointing chateau neufs. But I have found merlot varietals to be more well behaved through their lifetime.
Cheaper wines (sub £12 ish) tend to be more linear but are unlikely to develop into anything more complex.
To answer your first question about TWS descriptions, the answer is : No , there is no way of telling.
I have a vague theory that shutting down is determined by grape variety and pre release maturation. I have drunk quite a few gran reserva Riojas and Barolos and found them to be more linear in development than red Burgundy.
I therefore think that whilst there is some subjectivity there are wines that do shut down. I have experienced this phenomenon several times with Beaune 1er crus, Chambolles, red Corton, gevrey chambertins, and some Chateau neufs Vieux Telegraphe in particular.
I haven’t experienced it with whites other than a white Hermitage, which for a few years tasted disgusting and oxidised and then blossomed out.


I would heartily disagree on this point.

The vagaries of producer, vintage and sub-region - with regard particularly to Barolo - make them an absolute nightmare to predict where in their ageing lifecycle they’ll be. 2006, '08 and '13 in particular had a nice early drinking phase, and then depending on the aforementioned caveats, went/are going through really tannic, harder edged phases. Last night’s 2011 was a case in point that even in lesser vintages, the same can follow.

Good quality Rioja tends to follow a lifecycle of too woody followed by good early full bodied drinking, then a (sometimes extended) period of putting on weight, before very laterly entering its ‘aged Burgundy’ phase. The 2001 Faustino and Ardanza have followed this route remarkably similarly - the Faustino is still weightier now than 7/8 years ago, though is starting to relax somewhat. But it’s almost impossible to predict where on that evolution they’ll be.

On a wider point, Mas de Daumas Gassac and Brumont both give instruction to drink young ‘on the fruit’, then to leave for a few years in the wines middle age, before drinking the aged wine.

As with so many things with wine, unfortunately there just isn’t enough independent research to verify exactly what’s going on with all wines all the time (but I’m less convinced it’s as easy as a variety-specific problem, more climate/region/winemakers intention that’s playing the biggest part).


Define ‘closed down’ ?

We might agree that is the vaguely adolescent stage between a YOUNG wine (all primary fruit, spice, sometimes oak, harsh tannins, brightly coloured) and an OLD wine (little fruit, barely any tannin, brownish colour, complex notes of leather / mushrooms / strangeness).

So a ‘closed down’ wine exhibits a bit of both worlds. Or maybe the worst of both worlds?

And one of the aspects of our enjoyment in wine which makes life interesting.


A very fair question…hard to define but know it when I taste it…a wine described as closed down generally tastes thin, acidic, lacking any defined flavour. It exhibits an awkwardness.
I try to avoid judging the tannins. Tannins have to be ripe. Tannin, if it is unripe will never ripen in the bottle and will always exhibit astringency and a stalky characteristic.
It is easier to spot if you have bought a few bottles of the same wine and have drunk one very young when it is still “on the fruit” .


Interesting comments: thanks all. Two things here - one, the notion that wines close down at all, and two, how to alert purchasers to wines that might be in this category.

On the second issue, I’ve tracked down a representative comment here (there are others following in that thread):

I guess what I’m trying to get to is this: notwithstanding mood/food/guests/sheer dumb luck, if a winemaker recommends “drink <18 months or >6 years”, wouldn’t it be helpful for that to appear in the notes? At the moment it’s just an open drinking window - example here:

If I open this bottle and it’s like drinking a liquid brick, I might feel justifiably irked because nowhere am I being advised that the wine is best either young or old - I’m just being told ‘drink it anywhere in a ten-year window’. (Or maybe I should just be doing more homework before buying?)

This is what I mean :point_up: Even if it’s not an exact science (of course).


One of these opened tentatively 18 months ago tasted rather like water with a squeeze of lemon and lime in it.

Won’t be touching the remaining 3 for few years.


I think we’d get a fascinating answer from Toby, if he is of a mind to answer. Here’s hoping :smile:

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I can believe that, but it’s not in a closed period - it’s just too young. I’d say give it another 5-10 years, and even more wouldn’t hurt.

Though even when mature its pretty austere, but hugely intense. I love it with the right age on it, but its not exactly a crowd pleaser.

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Having just picked up a couple of the former (2012s) I quite enjoyed the deep dive available on their website: Each vintage selected has quite a narrative on the expected evolution although one has to wonder if it chronicles the writer as much as the wine.


Some good responses above.

I’m a bit obsessed with drinking windows too. I love drinking wine when it’s developed more complex, tertiary flavours but before it’s started to decline and am constantly in search of that sweet spot for many of my bottles (even some of the cheap stuff!)

I’m not totally convinced about wine ‘closing down’ but there’s no doubt that there is often a
‘worst of both worlds’ phase in between the vibrant fruit of youth or those more savoury, tertiary flavours of an aged bottle.

I think the big problem is that (as others have said) it’s almost impossible to generalise or be precise or scientific about timings. There are so many variables with wine that it has a life of its own and you never know for certain what you’ll get until you open it. That’s one of the biggest fascinations/frustrations of the stuff!


This is a question I and others have pondered over before, prompting some useful community discussion.

Sharing links here to add to the debate, rather than to detract from it:

For my money, it most frequently seems to be a problem with red Burgundy… biotechnology me wants to believe in a scientific reason…but cynical me can’t help but think it seems like a convenient excuse behind which to hide expensive wines that might just be a bit duff. :thinking:


I’m sure I’ve made this diagram and posted it somewhere before.

This is my theory as to what’s going on with wines closing down, if I were being less cynical. I do tend to increasingly fall into the “convenient excuse behind which to hide expensive wines that might just be a bit duff” camp.


@strawpig - that’s my base hypothesis too.

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Sorry, late to the party on this thread, only just found it. My experience is predominantly with French reds, but I am a strong believer in Bordeaux and Syrah based Rhônes having a tendency to close down. The graph provided by strawpig covers the timing, but not the experience for me. In the last couple of years I have had 2014 Poujeaux which I knew would be good, but simply wasn’t when the cork was pulled and 2010 Angludet which you could have driven nails in with. I don’t think they are duff, they are just mistimed. And I don’t think much of the drinking windows, they are deliberately conserative to avoid liability. I just stocked up on 2008 Bouscaut, the advice was to drink up now, but for me they have only just blossomed into a delicious wine.