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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Do you recommend tasting a wine before buying more bottles of it for cellaring? If I like aged Barolo, should I try to taste the Nebbiolo-based wines while they're still young?
I’d recommend trying a wine before purchasing it if you're planning to age it, whenever possible, and for a couple reasons. First, I like to repeat the saying that a wine cellar is not a wine hospital. A wine that’s mediocre, out of balance or lacking charm in its youth will not magically become a beauty in its old age. Secondly, it’s such an interesting and educational experience to track a wine’s progress as it ages.
That said, I realize that’s easier advice to give if money and wine storage are of no concern. That’s not always the case, and most folks have to buy wine without the luxury of tasting it ahead of time, or tracking how it ages.
It’s funny that you mention Nebbiolos. Wines made from the Nebbiolo grape, like Barolos and Barbarescos, are notoriously tough, austere and tannic while young, but the best versions age like a dream. Even though I know I love an aged Barolo, I can still find it hard to assess a youthful Nebbiolo. But the best examples of young Nebbiolos should exhibit balance, depth, expressiveness and complexity—even with a mouthful of tannins.
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