What does it mean when a wine is 'closed'?

Lately i have been seeing people discuss wines that are ‘shutting down’ or are ‘closed’.
What does this really mean?
How long would this situation last…months, years, longer?

It means the wine isn’t showing much flavor (e.g., fruit) – just structure (tannin and acid).

Some wines – particularly those with substantial acids – go through dumb/shut-down stages sometimes. They can last for years.

But there is also a lot of variation occasion to occasion, depending on how the wine is served (decanted or not), how long it’s exposed to air in the glass, and so on. So it pays to take assertions that a wine is closed with a grain of salt. People’s mileage varies widely.

Sometimes saying “It was shut down” just means it wasn’t decanted enough, or it wasn’t tasted with foods that would bring out its flavors.

I think of this as the interregnum, lasting for years or even decades, between the brief period during which wines exhibit atypical overt freshness, and when they reach proper maturity.

Welcome, good question.

I’m sorta curious here. Still trying to learn about this wine thing.
If I open a wine and it has very little in the way of aromas and flavors; how can I tell if it’s a wine that is just lacking in aromas/flavors, a dullard of a wine,
or one that is just “closed”, “shut down” and in a “dumb phase”??

That’s easy Tom. It’s based on how much you paid for the bottle. If it’s a lot then the wine is closed. If it’s cheap then it’s just a bad wine.

Seriously closed periods exist but unless one drinks the same wine regularly there is no wY to call it. The only time I can say without a doubt that I had a closed wine is when I working at a winery and tasted the wines every week for over a year.

Perfectly said.


A trick to see if tannins are masking the fruit is to first take a bite of a fatty food, even cream cheese, which will coat the mouth.
If a wine is closed because it has not had enough time to develop bouquet, which is the major component of impression, a long decant may give some hints. Trying it a second or third day is another option.
It takes years of following wines over time to be able to wrest out a picture of future development from a closed wine.

P Hickner

A lot of wines do shut down. The normal progression is for the fruit to be in the forefront for a time, and drinking said wine will be a fun fruity treat. Then the fruit falls away while the secondary flavors develop. So if you catch it in a closed period, nothing is showing well. Hopefully a winemaker who actually understands this stuff will chime in…

I’ll give a serious answer to your tongue-in-cheek question. Experience is the best guide, IMO, though not a perfect one. I’ve had enough wines that are delicious young, turn surly for a while, and then emerge to once again offer deliciousness, though of a different type, to be confident that wines shut down.

And I’ve found that different types of wines follow different paths. Bordeaux often shuts down once, but once it reopens, tends to stay open. Burgundies tend to be more contrary and temperamental, and are more likely to shut down and reopen two or more times over their lifetimes. Northern Rhones tend to be closer to the Burgundy path, but not as temperamental.

I haven’t seen it as much in California wines, but that is probably a function of sample size of my experience with following the same wines over a long period of time, ability to improve over substantial amounts of time, or some combination of the two. I suspect that some of the great older California wines I’ve had shut down during some part of their lives, but I just didn’t have them during that window.

You have followed enough wines from the very start that surely you’ve noticed something similar, haven’t you? :wink:

I haven’t experienced this phase, but it sounds like one I’d like to avoid.

Think 80’s Cordier wines. Damn little iPhone keys . . .

Shoulda used a uPhone.

T think it should be worth mentioning a very important fact:

You shouldn’t understand a “closed period” as kind of a “bag” which was open at the beginning revealing all flavours of the wine, then the “bag” closes and after time it re-opens again revealing the same type/stype of flavours. This is not the case. During the “closed period” a wine changes it’s flavours heavily.

Means: if you liked a wine in his very early stage doesn’t necessarily mean that you will still like it after the wine went through a dumb period and reopen again. The flavours will be different.

Personally -to give you an example- I love red Burgundy it it’s fruity youth but also with lots of age. On the other hand, I also like young Riesling (Auslesen etc…) but I don’t liek them with lots of age age as they lose a lot of their vibrant energy which I like so much when they are young (although Riesling normally does not have a closed period like Bordeaux or Burgundy)

Wines progress through primary, secondary and tertiary phases. Out of barrel wines show exuberant fruit. In the period between primary and secondary some wines are no longer simply fruity and yet are still not complex with beguiling secondary aromas and palate. In that phase it is closed and hoped to open with time.

My sense is that acidity has a bit impact. Burgundy, Northern Rhones and Barolo, tend to go through more extended periods when they are very tight. Bordeaux a little less so. New World wines much less so. (All broad generalizations, of course.)

Anyone else concur?

I think this about sums up the issue.

Some people say that there are no great wines; others say only great bottles. I say only great experiences. It’s often not the wine, per se, but the setting, the ability to concentrate on it and allow it to evolve during the tasting( if there are too many wines, forget it…you get a snapshot and move on);

Acidity and tannins (tannins are also a form of tannic acidity) are doubtlessly what makes a wine seem “closed” , ie, they dominate before they tame down (and the tannic presence recedes). As John points out, preparation of a particular wine for tasting is often key to how it will seem to the taster. (A whole topic itself.) But, I am a big believer in aeration as a panacea to lack of age, maturity, openness. The amount of everything is the issue, of course including aeration…even with wines with some age on them. Aging is just oxidation done under a controlled environent: the bottle and the cork.

For me, the best way to actually evaluate the potential of “closed” wines (and wines can be closed at almost all stages…barrel (for example when they are recently racked), just bottled…or thereafter…there is no set/predictable stage of “closed” in my experience…is to concentrate on the finish…ie, whether good fruit is left on ones palate at the end of the tasting process. That often has to be coaxed with swirling .in the glass and in the mouth, etc.

Finally, I’d like to add my two cents that it is important to distinguish between tasting and drinking, especially with wines that one might expect to be 'closed". People on this board seem to drink lots of trophy wines in a area I’d argue is when they should be expected to be 'closed"…certainly not mature. That’s their perogative, of course. But…I don’t find tasting notes on such things very credible…and often don’t even read them…unless the taster is obviously aware of what they’re doing: preparation; the effect of food on the experience; the names on the labels; the number of wines at one time; and the difference between “tasting” ie, evaluating and drinking…When I see young red Burgundies, for example, under a decade not being described as “closed”, I wonder what’s really being reported. And…I often think they are describing “drinking” rather than “tasting” , especially when there is little prep to avoid the “closed” aspect of wines that should show “closed” at that point.


A la Devil’s Dictionary: 1. A term indicating that a $500 bottle of wine is nowhere as good as its price would indicate. 2. A wine whose cork has not yet been pulled.

Agree. A post worth saving.

I realize there are a lot of “ifs” coming in this post… If you have time for some experimenting, if you are drinking a wine and have the time to wait, if your initial taste is not all that great then set it aside and take a sip every 30 minutes or so over the course of an entire evening. By experimenting with one bottle you may see that that wine really needed to be opened up a few hours before drinking or at the very least a decant. If you give a try and find that nothing improves over time then it may be too young to drink. What did other reviewers say about the wine? Are you drinking the wine in the appropriate or recommended drinking window? My wife accidentally opened a bottle that once I looked it up online (after opening it) determined it was not in its drinking window. I put the other bottles in the correct place to let them age a few years.