“Is older wine better?” And “how long does wine last?” These are the two questions we are going to tackle in this week’s blog. While there isn’t a simple answer to either question, there are some statistics and facts that might help us draw some conclusions.
Let’s start with some basics: Most wine produced today is meant to be consumed in the next 18 months. Of course the exact amount of time it will be good depends on the vintage. The older the wine, the more likely that 18-month timeline will shrink to something less. Wines that cost $15.00, or less, a bottle are meant to be drunk right away…let’s say within the next four to six months.
Here are a couple more points to consider:
- For the most part, red wines will last longer than whites.
- Rosé or pink-colored wines should be consumed in a year’s time…I would recommend that you not buy a pink wine more than a year old.
- Sweeter and heavier wines last longer than more delicate wines.
- Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet-based wines tend to age better and last longer than other red wines such as Pinot Noir.
- More expensive wines typically age longer. My rule of thumb: California Cabernets costing $50.00 to $125.00 a bottle you will want to drink in the 5- to 10-year range. Wines from $126.00 to $324.00 a bottle usually will be drinkable up to 15 to 20 years. Wines that are $325.00 and up will usually last up to 25 years but most likely will hit their prime in the 12- to 20-year range. Price isn’t always the best indicator of quality, but fine wines or the more expensive wines, tend to have more age-ability.
I spoke above of aging by price, below is a chart I came across that provides us with the age-ability range of various wine types or grapes:
- Cabernet Sauvignon 4 to 20 years
- Grenache 3 to 12 years
- Merlot 2 to 10 years
- Nebbiolo 4 to 20 years
- Pinot Noir 2 to 8 years
- Syrah/Shiraz 4 to 16 years
- Tempranillo (Spain) 2 to 8 years
- Chardonnay 2 to 6 years
- Loire Chenin Blanc 4 to 30 years
- Riesling 2 to 30 years
- Sauternes 5 to 25 years
Aged and Aging Wines
Like most things about wine, the less experience or knowledge you have, the tougher it is to understand or determine something. This is the case with making determinations on whether a wine is aged or has the ability to age. As you (we) learn more about wines, you get a feel for which wines are good for aging. I don’t think you ever really know the perfect time to drink a wine. But with continued sampling, questioning of others about their experiences with aged or aging wines, studying other resources and some good note keeping, we’ll improve our knowledge and get closer to knowing when the perfect time is to drink a wine.
Here are some more facts to consider on aged wine:
- Wines age better if they are stored properly. They need to be laid on their sides in a cool (55° to 65°) dark space. The cooler the better, but not below 45°. All of my wine cellars are maintained between 54° and 60°.
- Keep bottles in a humidity range of 70% to keep the corks from drying out.
- Only about 1% to 5% of the wine produced in the world is meant to age…only about 1% improves after 5 to 10 years according to people in the know about such things.
- Younger wines, despite being a little rough around the edges at times, are still better to drink than wines that have passed their prime, which can be almost undrinkable. Some might taste flat, or hardly have any taste at all, while others may taste like watered-down wine.
- The wines which are very tannic or heavy with tannins generally age well. The wines on our list that will age the best are typically very tannic which is why they make the list.
- Tannins are a group of molecules that come from grape stems, seeds and skins. Tannins are in all grapes.
- Tannins have an effect on the smell of the wine, its color, its taste…and certainly its aging. As wines age the tannins, acids, and other compounds that are in wine bind together chemically and get heavier as they do so and then “fall out of the wine.” This interaction, or binding, at times will leave sediment in the bottom or sides of the bottle (if stored on its side). So when pouring the wine, you need to be aware of the sediment and be careful not to pour it into your glass.
- Wines with heavy tannins and that age the best are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
- Typically grapes that are grown in places with long, warm summers and cool, but not frosty winters have the balance of sugars, acids and tannins to support long-aging periods. California’s Napa Valley and France’s Bordeaux regions are known for wines that age well.
Why go through the trouble to age wines?
As I mentioned earlier, it can be expensive to age wines at the proper temperature, darkness and humidity, but to many the cost is worth it. An aged wine will produce new flavors and textures that you would have otherwise not had the experience of tasting if the wine had not aged. The changes can, at times, be complex. How does it change? Young wines will have a nose of ripe berries and be very aromatic. An aged wine’s nose might now have smells of earth and leather, maybe even a little of forest floor. On the palate in younger wines you will have pronounced fruitiness and some bitterness and when you swallow…the mouth feel will be dry and chalky. In an aged wine the fruitiness taste will still be there but perhaps not as overwhelming as in its youth. It will be there in a more subtle way. Even the mouth feel has a tendency to change. After you have swallowed the wine, your mouth might feel more fuzzy and warm than with a younger wine. In the finish I think the flavors last longer. This, in my opinion, improves the ever so important finish of the wine.
If you are successful at aging wine or purchase an aged wine, I believe you will be rewarded in a positive way with a wine that is very different than it was when it was younger. Some will like the change while others may not. But that is the fun thing about wine…everyone’s opinion counts. You get to be the judge.
As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.
Until next week,
Please join us for these Upcoming Tiedemann On Wines Wine Club dinners:
October 13, Old World Versus New World Wines, Dinner at McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk in Elkhart, 6:30 p.m. (McCarthy’s Wine Dinner Menu)
November 10, Spanish Wine Dinner at McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk in Elkhart, 6:30 p.m.