Column: Is your special bottle still drinkable?

Often, people tell me that they’ve been saving a special bottle of wine for a special occasion, and they ask me if the wine is still drinkable. This depends on many factors but generally, if you purchased or received the wine within the past couple of years, it should be fine. The longer you have saved the bottle, the less likely it will be drinkable. When you store wines over a long period of time, whether a bottle is drinkable or not is largely dependent on your storage and the quality of the wine.

Not all wines age well.  Most wines are meant to be enjoyed within 5 years of when they were first purchased. Some wines are meant to be aged for longer periods of time but you need to store these wines properly, in a cool, dark, and humid environment with stable temperatures and humidity. Unfortunately, many wines are not stored in optimum conditions. The longer these wines are stored in less than optimum conditions, there greater the chance the wine may not be drinkable.

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So assuming you have stored your wine in ideal storage conditions, how do you know the quality of the wine? The internet is always helpful. One website I use is You can enter your wine by name and vintage and the website gives you a date range when the wine is drinkable. This is not definitive but it gives you some idea of how well the wine ages. You can also see reviews of the wine from other people.

If you think your special wine is still drinkable, then pop it open!  If you are healthy enough to drink wine, you are generally doing pretty good. Every day that you are alive, healthy, and happy, is a special occasion. Many people wait too long for that special day to open a special wine. You always think there will be a special day in the future, but we should be thankful for today. So special occasion wines should be enjoyed any time you can share a bottle with friends or family. What makes the wine special or the day special is not the wine or the day, but those around you.

Often, people wait to open a wine they have saving for years, only to find that when they open the wine, it is not really that great.  Special bottles are usually special not because of the wine itself, but because of the person who gave it to you, or the occasion when you received it.  So if you suspect that your special wine is no longer drinkable, how can you still enjoy it? You can open the wine and take a quick taste.  If it is not pleasurable, then use it to mix drinks (like a sangria), or in cooking.  Then you are still serving that special wine on that special occasion but enjoying it in a more palatable form.  You can still display the bottle and tell the story of why it is a special wine, without the disappointment of serving a wine that is past its prime.  So go ahead an open that special bottle!

In each article, I make a wine recommendation.  In terms of a special occasion wine, try Osoyoos Larose 2016 Grand Vin, which is a blend of many grape varieties but predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is one of my favourite B.C. red wines.  Age this for a few years and it should still be stunning.  Priced at $47.99.

Until next time, happy drinking!

Tony Kwan is the Richmond News' new columnist. Lawyer by day, food and wine lover by night, Kwan is an epicurean who writes about wine, food and enjoying all that life has to offer.

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