How long is too long: Is this wine still good?
May 15, 2010 12:45 PM   Subscribe

How long can one keep an unopened bottle of quality white wine past its vintage year?

My friend was given a bottle of Château des Charmes 2002 Chardonnay (St. David’s Bench Vineyard) a few years ago, put it away for a special occasion and promptly forgot about it. We've now found it again and are wondering if we should even bother opening it.

I've tried to find out more about this wine online, to little avail. It does look like it was still drinkable in 2007, however, as this Château des Charmes newsletter attests to (see 2/3 of the way down the page).

So, will this wine still be enjoyable? Would it need some sort of preparation before drinking (decanting, aerating, etc.)? We both know very little about wines, so any info would be greatly appreciated.
posted by MelanieL to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
Just open it and try it. It's probably OK unless it's been subjected to big swings in temperature. You probably want to lightly chill it (don't stick it in the fridge for 10 hours) and let it breathe a bit but you'll know right away if it's still drinkable.
posted by fshgrl at 12:54 PM on May 15, 2010

Couldn't hurt to decant though sometimes you lose whatever is left of its yummy scent. I'd open it with a backup bottle of something else.

All wines age differently and they all typically have their sweet spot where its aged just enough to really let the flavors come out but not so long that it has started to lose its flavor. The trick is, unless I get this info straight from the vintner, it's really hard to know when that sweet spot is. And, they may not even know until they drink a bottle some time after its release.

It's probably drinkable but may not be amazing. Or, who knows, if its been stored well, maybe it'll be super yum. Let us know!
posted by amanda at 12:56 PM on May 15, 2010

It's probably no good, but try it anyway. Was it stored in the dark and laying on its side?
posted by bunny hugger at 1:18 PM on May 15, 2010

You should absolutely open it; most vintage guides are just that, guides, but are not necessarily hard and fast rules. The likely scenario is the wine has lost some of its qualities, but will still be a enjoyable wine.
posted by Hiker at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2010

I wouldn't be as pessimistic as bunny hugger, but home cellaring is a crapshoot. No reason not to open it: whites generally don't need or take age as well as reds, outside of stickies and a few high-end exceptions (Chardonnay being one), but it won't kill you. Just try it at home with low expectations, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
posted by holgate at 1:45 PM on May 15, 2010

Château des Charmes 2002 is a low-cost, "every-day" Canadian wine.

Open it up. Take a sip. If you like it, drink it. Otherwise, use it as a cooking wine, or pour it down the sink.
"They brought me a wee bottle of Château des Charmes 2002 Chardonnay, and I first thought, 'Oh. Plonk.' I then noticed the bottle’s VQA label, and decided not to condemn it before trying it.


Oaked, but balanced with a pleasant fruity lightness that gives a slight impression of sweetness. The perfect wine to sock back on a train when you’re pretending you’re something else. Needless to say, I have bought it since – at $10.95 a bottle, why resist?

The 2002 vintage is still readily available [in 2005] at the LCBO, for now, i.e. until I buy it out. When we visited the winery at the end of August, they were already offering the 2003 for tasting, and I’m not sure I fancied it as much."*
BTW -- There are some Chardonnays that age well.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2010

Chardonnays can age for decades but the majority of age worthy Chardonnay are Burgundy, Chablis and California (less track record for the latter). If you have little exposure to a vineyard and are looking for its drinking window, cellartracker is the world' foremost collection of tasting notes for wines. From cellar tracker here are two recent notes on the wine (please note the dates):

Tasted by fireandice on 7/25/2008 & rated 88 points: A great chardonnay; definitely ready to drink; golden colour with lots of vanilla and butterscotch on the nose, and buttered popcorn on the palate. (167 views)

Tasted by Tarrant on 8/13/2007 & rated 90 points: At the Bayfield Cottage - One of my fave Niagara Chards, very complex, gold in colour with notes of pear, peach and oak on the nose, nicely concentrated and balanced with a long finish (90 Points). (271 views)

Accordingly, it seems like the wine is in a good drinking window but may still have potential evolution for the future. There is little to indicate that the wine will develop exceptional levels of complexity/maturation with more bottle age so I'd put it in queue to pop in the next year or so.
posted by Hurst at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2010

For crying out loud, it's only eight years in the bottle. It's fine. Open it, drink it, you won't notice anything unusual. (For future reference, if you suspect a bottle is past its prime age the last thing you want to do is aerate or decant it. In that case, open and drink immediately).
posted by Nelson at 5:11 PM on May 15, 2010

I agree with Nelson. open it and see if you like it. At the end of the day that's all that really matters. But keep in mind that mature Chardonnay is an aquired taste. Please don't expect it to be filled with bright baked apple fruitiness and a kiss of oak(like our current release). You should find it to be smoky with hints of butterscotch and creme brule. For those who like older Chards, this will be delish. It just depends on what you like. All of this of course depends on how it was stored too: constant temp, minumal light and vibration to get best results. I have had an older vintage of our Chardonnay and it was drinking beautifully, if you like the flavour profile. Cool climate Chards like Niagara (Canada), Chablis, Burgundy and New Zealand have best aging potential because of their balance.

Next time you would like information about a wine made at Chateau des Charmes please feel free to email me at our check out our website at There is a place for guest comments or ask the winemaker. Hope you enjoy!
posted by MBosc at 12:32 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your answers everyone! And a special thank-you to MBosc! The 2002 Chardonnay will definitely be opened and (hopefully) enjoyed very soon.
posted by MelanieL at 3:47 PM on May 17, 2010

So we opened the bottle and it was absolutely lovely!

Keep in mind that I don't make a habit of trying to describe wines, so this might not make much sense, but words that occured to me as I was sipping this were buttery, crisp, vanilla and caramel. It had a nice, fruity aroma (bouquet?), almost like mango. I would say it had both a medium body and finish.

I'm so glad my friend kept this Chardonnay! (I helped!) If I knew it was readily available at the LCBO, I'd certainly buy another bottle.
posted by MelanieL at 5:34 PM on May 18, 2010

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