This wine is closed (for now)

It’s Black Friday, many people are in a buying mood, and just about every store is open for business. So if you ran into a shop that was closed and dark today, wouldn’t you find that strange?

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Funny thing: Wine can be something like that, too. Every now and then you’ll open a bottle with great anticipation only to find that the wine inside is just not, well, open for business today. Chances are that there’s nothing wrong with the wine, it’s just not showing its best. In place of the expected ripe and juicy fruity flavors and hoped-for complexity, acid balance, and tannins, it’s just, well, quiet.

“Closed” is probably the word you’ll hear most often from wine enthusiasts holding a glass of wine in this state, but you may also hear alternative terms such as “shut down,” “subdued,” “tight,” or “muted.”

What causes this problem? It’s common for a wine that’s just come in via cross-country or international shipping to show poorly until it’s had a few weeks to settle down, and I suspect that may have happened with my wine this week, which had just showed up at a local shop.

Some red wines also go into a closed stage for a few years after they’re produced. I enjoyed this explanation in a 2011 blog post from Tablas Creek Wines:

“Perhaps you’ve had a red wine which has lost some of its youthful fruit but still provides a mouthful of tannins. Or one that seems less giving, aromatically, than it was some months before. It’s actually fairly common: many wines have an intermediate stage where they are less enjoyable than they were, and less than they will be. This intermediate stage is often referred to as ‘closed’ or ‘shut down.’ You can equally think of them as teenagers: no longer children, with the charms of youth, but not fully adult either, often gangly and awkward, prone to moodiness and unpredictability.”

Naturally it’s disappointing to open a wine that you’ve been eager to enjoy only to find it muted, tight, okay, closed. Bear in mind, though, that this isn’t a fatal flaw such as you’ll get in a wine that’s spoiled by the musty, mushroomy, dank-basement reek of cork taint, or a brown, sherry-like potion spoiled by excessive age or a defective cork or screw cap.

Domaine le Fagolet's Brouilly vineyards, from the domaine's web page.

Domaine le Fagolet’s Brouilly vineyards, from the domaine’s web page.

In most cases, as with the tightly closed Domaine le Fagolet 2020 Saburin Sud Brouilly that I opened with Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, the wine may fall short of expectations but is still entirely drinkable. Frequent aeration, rocking the wine in the glass, pouring in a little more, or even stirring it with a spoon will sometimes help. So will setting the glass aside to let it air for a while, the equivalent of the old and usually needless practice of letting the wine “breathe.”

Still, it was disappointing to get less than I expected from a wine that I chose for holiday festivity. It’s useful for us to get an occasional reminder, though, that the best of the wines we love are not industrial products made by machines but agricultural bounty made largely by hand. Stuff happens, and at the end of the day, I enjoyed the wine and was glad, mostly, that it wasn’t “corked.”

I definitely recommend Domaine le Fagolet Saburin Sud Brouilly. But if you pick up a bottle of the 2020 vintage, which appears to be just arriving in the U.S. market, I suggest that you leave it quietly on its side for a month or two before you pull the cork.


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Today’s Tasting Report

Domaine le Fagolet 2020 Saburin Sud Brouilly ($22.99)

Domaine le Fagolet

Made from 100% Gamay grapes in the Brouilly region of Beaujolais, Domaine le Fagolet 2020 Saburin Sud Brouilly shows an attractive reddish-purple color, shading to a clear garnet edge. Its pleasant red berry scent seems closed at first but starts to open with air and time in the glass. Good fresh flavor, crisp and brightly acidic. It opens up to unveil plum and pomegranate flavors. Stony minerality joins tart red fruit in a long finish. 13.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Aquitaine Wine USA LLC, Berkeley, Calif. (Nov. 24, 2022)

FOOD MATCH: suggests pairing it with chicken and turkey. Indeed, it worked well with the various flavors on a Thanksgiving Day buffet feast with friends.

WHEN TO DRINK: Cru Beaujolais wines are generally accepted as ageworthy, at least for a few years, but I don’t see this one as long-term ager. Enjoy it over the next few years and then move on.

The lower $20s is getting into a range that might prompt buyer resistance, but give it a second thought: I’m willing to pay this price for a well-made Cru Beaujolais like this one, from Brouilly, a favorite region, particularly for a holiday feast. lists no current retail prices or vendors for this recently arrived vintage, but check the link in a few weeks for additions.

Importer Aquitaine wines offers this detailed fact sheet on the 2019 vintage of Domaine le Fagolet Saburin Sud Brouilly.

Domaine le Fagolet’s web page is in French only, but even if you don’t read the language, it’s full of photos and other engaging information. While you’re at it, why not stop by and “like” Fagolet’s Facebook Page?

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: lists no current retail prices or vendors for this recently arrived vintage of Domaine le Fagolet Saburin Sud Brouilly, but check the link in a few weeks for additions.

Meanwhile, you can follow this Wine-Searcher link to find listings for dozens of other wines from Brouilly.

Here is Wine-Searcher’s page for the Gamay grape, with scores of listings for specific wines and vendors.


Wine Focus November 2022: Zinfandel and Gamay

Welcome to November! Our monthly Wine Focus features a doubleheader this month that straddles the new and old world. Zinfandel owes almost all its notoriety to wines produced in California, despite its long-ago European heritage. Gamay, once kicked out of Burgundy, eventually staged a dubious comeback as Nouveau Beaujolais, but has since shed some of that image and carved a niche with wine lovers.

Bring either Zinfandel or Gamay, bring your comments and questions, and join us in Wine Focus for November 2022!


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Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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