I have mentioned a few times in my blog that most wines produced today, at least in the U.S. and some other countries, are made to drink immediately or certainly within a 24-month period.
Everyone’s palate and taste for wine is different, which is a positive thing. Personally, I like wines (especially reds) that have some age to them. I am a fan of big, bold wines with a chewy mouthfeel and a more balanced finish, which you will typically get with aged wines.
As you might suspect, the quality and taste of an aged wine will vary from bottle to bottle. How well the wine ages will depend on how it is stored and the condition of the cork and bottle. As we have discussed in the past, wine with bad corks can cause the wine to age quickly because the wine receives too much air as the cork deteriorates. Or, if the cork is chemically diseased, the wine will become “corked” and be unfit to drink.
Many wine experts believe that only about 3% of wines produced will age properly. Personally, the Napa Valley wines I tend to buy usually need to age in the bottle for about five years before they get to the point when they are really good to drink. It has been my experience that high-end collector wines do not taste great from the time they are released until about five to seven years of age. The Glenwood Cellars wines I produce typically need to age in the bottle for at least a year to a year and a half until they taste the way they should. As an example, the first Tiedemann Signature Bordeaux-style red I made was a 2008 vintage. Twelve years later this wine is tasting very well.
One of the premier wine experts in the world, Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson, has developed a list of wines that will not age very well and wines that have good aging potential. Here are a few wines from her lists.
Little to No Aging Potential
- Asti and Moscato Spumante
- Rosé and blush wines like White Zinfandel
- European table wines
- American jug and box wines
- Inexpensive varietals
- Basic Sherry
- Tawny Ports
Good Aging Potential
It is important to remember that vintage, region and where the white wine is produced, and the winemaker’s style can have a big influence on a wine’s ability to age.
- Chardonnay: 2 to 6 years
- Riesling: 2 to 30 years
- Loire Valley Chenin Blanc: 4 to 30 years
- Hunter Valley Semillon: 6 to 15 years
- Cabernet Sauvignon: 4 to 20 years
- Merlot: 2 to 10 years
- Nebbiolo: 4 to 20 years
- Pinot Noir: 2 to 8 years
- Sangiovese: 2 to 8 years
- Syrah: 4 to 16 years
- Zinfandel: 2 to 6 years
- Classified Bordeaux: 8 to 25 years
- Grand Cru Burgundy: 8 to 25 years
- Spanish Tempranillo: 2 to 8 years
- Vintage Ports: 20 to 50 years
What Happens When Wine Ages?
As red wines age there are a number of changes that take place. The color of the wine gets a little lighter over time and will develop a rusty or orange looking ring around the edge of the wine where it touches the wine glass. If the wine is aged too long the color can become brown and at that point it is most likely not drinkable. Also, as wine ages, it will be less fruity on the nose and palate. The harsh tannins and acidity of its younger days will gradually turn to a softer mouth feel (in my opinion) and provide a much more balanced and more pleasant wine to drink. During the aging period wine tends to develop sediment. While sediment is harmless, it isn’t good to get a mouthful of the sediment. Decanting the wine prior to drinking it gives one the opportunity to separate the sediment from the wine. Sediment is not tasty.
As I mentioned earlier, red wines have a tendency to age better than white wines. There are some exceptions to that statement. Wines with high acidity levels not only age better but tend to benefit from it.
White wines that tend to benefit from aging are Riesling, White Bordeaux-style blends, Albarino, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. These wines can all age very well and in some cases better than reds.
As white wines age the color of the wine will darken. For example, they turn from a brighter yellow to a deeper gold color or maybe have a brownish tint. Flavors also tend to change. Fruit flavors may take on a honey taste and some wines gain a nuttiness flavor and the acidity, and perhaps oaky flavors, tend to lessen and balance each other.
Items that Affect Aging
These are several conditions that will affect a wine’s ability to age:
- Don’t store any wine in direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause the wine to oxidize prematurely and this will definitely affect the taste of the wine.
- Storage temperature is very important. Wine should be stored at 55 degrees if possible. Heat (i.e. high temperatures), can cook a wine and even cause the cork to push up in the bottle neck. I have had this happen several times when I left a bottle of wine on the front seat of my car. The heat of the sun heated the wine and pushed the cork up enough for the wine to leak on the car seat.
- Another factor is one’s impatience. It’s not easy to lay a bottle down for a number of years without the urge to drink that delicious bottle of wine. Remember you laid the bottle down to age long enough to reveal its true nature and identity.
There is no direct answer to the question should I age wine or not. As we discussed there are a number of factors that come into play when you are thinking about aging a bottle(s) of wine. I believe if you take as many factors into consideration as you can about aging wine, you’ll find it is worth doing.
Special Events Coming Up
The November 20th LEX 530 Wine and Dinner Club has been cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns in Elkhart County.
December 2020 our second wine club, 530 Select Wine Club, will get started with club members being able to purchase two bottles of pre-selected wines each month in two different price ranges. They are $50 and $75. To join, please contact Courtney Forte at 574-296-1314.
As always, I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you are reading this blog for the first time, please consider subscribing while you are on the website. This way you will get our reviews and articles delivered to you for free in your email box. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics, please do so in the comments section below.
Important Wine Holidays
November 12 – International Tempranillo Day
November 18 – International Zinfandel Day
December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
December 20 – National Sangria Day
December 31 – National Champagne Day