Monday, January 18, 2021

How soon is wine consumed after purchase?

I have always claimed that: if you have some nice food to eat, then you should have some nice wine to go with it; and if you don't have nice food, then you need some nice wine to make up for this. The main question, then, is where to get the nice wine, which is the only acceptable sort.

We have repeatedly been told over the past few decades something like this: "95% of wine is drunk within 24 hours of purchase" (eg. Cork vs. twist off: we have been screwed;   The perfect wine, on hand). But where does this "statistic" come from? No-one ever seems to quote a source — it is apparently just one of those things that "everyone knows". Indeed, I have included at the bottom of this post a selection of a few other similar statements from around the web.

To me, this claim looks like a factoid or urban legend. After all, the actual number seems to be quite non-believable. For example, people buy bag-in-box wine in order to have some open wine on hand whenever they feel like a glass, not to binge drink the entire container within one day; and this packaging type accounts for an awful lot of wine purchases. Similarly, a lot of the bottled stuff is bought by those people with a genuine "wine interest", and they are not likely to chug-a-lug the stuff it as soon as they get it home — how we are we supposed to talk about our wine collection if we have just drunk it?

Note, also, that this claim is a very different thing from saying that most wine is produced with the intention that it will be drunk soon after production. There seems to be no obvious objection to the suggestion that most wines released are meant to be drunk within 1—3 years of bottling, while they are young and fresh, especially white and rosé wines. This refers to time from production, not time from purchase. For example, I usually drink rosé wine of the current vintage, although I did recently find one that had been sitting in the store for a year — Minuty Prestige 2019 (Côtes de Provence), and very nice it was, too.

Now, I am not going to spend my time tracing the origin of the magical "95" number (or "94", "90", etc). There are plenty of people on Youtube, and similar social media, who do that sort of thing (eg. LEMMiNO;   Cheddar;   Today I Found Out). Of far more interest to me, at least, is: what is the real number? After all, there must be one, although it is unlikely to be the same number in each wine-drinking culture around the globe.

The obvious place to look is the USA, since Americans seem to spend a lot of time and resources studying each other. To this end, Liz Thach & Angelo Camillo conducted a survey of 1,200 American wine consumers back in 2018 (A snapshot of the American wine consumer in 2018). One of the questions was: "When you buy a bottle of wine, how soon do you USUALLY drink it?"

The above graph shows you the compiled answers. Now that looks more like a number I am prepared to believe. Like all consumer surveys, we cannot treat the number as being very precise, since it depends on the sampling strategy used to gather the respondents; but there is no reason to think that this number is not in the right ballpark. That is, only one-fifth of people consume wine within a day of purchase, and another one-third within the next few days. Very sensible of them, I am sure.

On the other hand, only one-tenth of the people seem to consider cellaring their wines. These people are even more sensible, of course.

If we are not going to drink our wine within a few days of purchase, then this leads to the topic that I have previously looked into: How long should we cellar our wines? Apart from the obvious answer ("until they are ready"), we do need to consider whether we are buying an already mature wine. We might, then, let the bottle settle for only a few days, to allow the contents to recover from any possible travel shock, even though we wish to consume it sooner rather than later.

Does the price of a bottle of wine go up in price each year?
Something like 98% of wine is drunk within 48 hours of purchase and is meant to be consumed young.
Six things you probably don’t know about wine
As much as 90 percent of the wine bought in the U.S. is drunk within 24 hours ... And, depending on the study, some 95 percent of all wine purchased in the U.S. is consumed within a week.
Wine picks for the starter collector
the vast majority of wine in America — estimates range from 70% to 90% — is consumed within 24 hours of purchase
Do you drink it now or drink it later — That is the question!
Years ago, I heard that something like 50% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase. I can’t verify that statistic, but I do know that most of the wine we sell gets enjoyed promptly!
80% of all wines bought in the US are consumed w/in 48 hours
Apparently this is straight from the LCBO [Liquor Control Board of Ontario]: 90% of purchases at the LCBO are consumed within 24 hours, and most people don’t know what they want to buy before they enter the store. I generally have a corkscrew in my hand at checkout, so on average, I'd say that I wait about 6.75 seconds before opening a bottle I purchase.


  1. Another related question, that you touch on, is "how many people buy wine to cellar them?" or "how many people have a wine collection?"

    I suspect that the number would be <1% of all people who consume wine.

    So the remainder are people who buy-and-drink.

    1. An interesting question. The graph suggests that c. 5% of wine drinkers have a collection of some sort, even if very small. A serious collection, on the other hand, is, as you say, likely to be closer to 1%.

  2. Is "bottle shock" likewise an urban legend?

    I have not seen research that either confirms or refutes this oft-cited phenomenon.

    Is the shaking of a bottle of wine in transit any more deleterious than aerating it through (say) a Vinturi -- or similar device?

    Is the shaking of a bottle of wine in transit any more deleterious than aerating it through former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Paul Myhrvold's recommended blender trick?

    "Myhrvold's Theory: Blenders Trump Decanters" | Wine-Searcher (Feb 28, 2013)


    1. There are, of course, many urban legends in wine lore. That seems to be half the fun! I still let old wines settle for a few days after I bring them home, just in case.

  3. How soon wine is consumed has a lot to do with the varietal. Those that buy Bordeaux and Burgundy tend to cellar the wines more often. Those that buy domestic Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot tend to drink the wines relatively soon. The vast majority of domestic wines are vinified to be enjoyable either on release or within a year after release so why age them?

    1. Indeed, most wines are not intended to cellared, and do not often benefit from it. This is usually indicated by the price as much as the grape variety. However, even inexpensive wines can sometimes be more enjoyable after a year, or so. I first found this when I bought, on special, some previous-vintage Jacob's Creek "Claret", as it was then called (Shiraz Cabernet, these days).

  4. I think this is a more accurate statement:

    A high percentage of moderately-priced "grab-and-go" bottles of wine sourced from (say) a grocery store are consumed within 24 hours of purchase.

    Those purchases by workers making a detour on the drive home
    for dinner.