Last week, Wendy brought home a Nebbiolo, specifically, Valfiere Nebbiolo d'Alba ($24), knowing that the grape makes a wine we both like. I was glad to hear it was a Nebbiolo, but then I noticed the date on the bottle: 2007. And therein lay the problem: A bottle labeled Nebbiolo is for early drinking. This one was harvested in 2007, and now it's 2014, making it 7 years old. This one would've been good until about 2009, and then its inevitable decline would have begun. It can't be avoided.
So, with trepidation, I removed the cork. There was only about a quarter-inch of red on the bottom of the cork, so the wine had not seeped through, opening itself up to the air and all the damage that that can do. Nevertheless, the wine had in fact died several years ago, and all that was left was aromas of sherry and flavors of vinegar. Needless to say, it went down the drain, though not without a measure of mourning for a wine that would've been a delight in 2008 (I bought a second bottle just to be sure; same result).
Time matters in the world of wine. If you are looking in the $10s and $20s range for a daily-drinking wine that you have not tried yourself, it's best to stay within a couple of years of the harvest date. Beyond that, your risk of being disappointed rises rapidly.
Not having tried it yourself is the key factor here. There are some wines that are made in 2007, inexpensively, that are still excellent now. The thing to do is try them at a tasting and see for yourself. If you're in a local wine shop and it's out to try before you buy, you know that it has already been sampled and has made the cut.
Short of that, if it's an everyday wine more than a couple years old that has been standing up, with the wine out of contact with the cork for several years, try something else.
I'm not going to tell you where I got it, because I assume that it was put on the shelves in good faith, but it's one that should be avoided, and one that a knowledge of wine can save you from.What's to be said in the end? I'll be on the lookout for a 2013 or 2014 Valfieri Nebbiolo, and will report in if I find it.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh.com.