NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Wine experts insist that even the rarest vintages are meant to be drunk. Collectors who ignore that advice could end up with six-figure vinegar if they choose poorly.
Wine collection can be a tough, unforgiving process if you're in it for value and not for the wine itself. Great wines that survive frost, drought and Nazi occupation such as the 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild can sell for as much as $57,500 a bottle, as a case did at Christie's six years ago. Then again, an $85 1991 Pinot Noir that just happened to be bottled during a warm vintage can taste absolutely repugnant if a buyer lets it sit for nine years.
The latter happened to Ryan Sharp, winemaker and co-owner of Enso Winery and wine shop in Portland, Ore. He'd bought the bottle from an Oregon winery he'd known and enjoyed for years, but lacked some essential background information on that year's vintage. Normally, the tannins and other acidic/phenolic compounds found in the stems, seeds and skin of pinot noir grapes would preserve it, but a warm weather vintage throws off the acid and fruit balance or "structure" of a wine and leaves it ill-equipped for aging:
"It's just like with anything else: Oxygen is going to eventually spoil it," Sharp says. "That's just how our world works."It's also evidence that generalities suggesting red wines always age better than white, old world wines always age better than new or that sweet wines always age more poorly than their drier counterparts don't hold much water when you get down to specifics. Large winemakers including Constellation Brands (STZ), Diageo (DEO), Altria (MO), Brown-Forman (BF.B) and even smaller vintners such as Willamette Valley (WVVI) can balance out a bad vintage by adding acids or create vintages specifically designed for immediate drinking. Still, with only a small fraction of the world's wines capable of improving with age, there are plenty of warning signs to look for and spots to avoid if you're looking to invest in a wine with flavor and value that only improves with age. With help from Sharp, we came up with five wines that don't age particularly well and don't give the buyer any return on their investment unless enjoyed with some urgency: