Wines that age well

10.09.20  \\\  Posted by   \\\  Wine 101

Conventional wisdom says wine improves with age, yet that it might not be completely accurate. When a winemaker is crafting a wine, he or she has in mind a particular style and character, and sometimes they make wine that is simply made to be drunk young. If a wine is so delicious right now, where's the point in waiting?

What makes a wine age-worthy?

For a wine to improve over the years, it needs to start by having several elements that can develop with time. Wine professionals often to these elements as "Wine Structure." A wine with low aromatics, low alcohol, low acidity, and low tannins/ little oak influence (if red) has little chance that those elements are not enough to evolve over time. On the other hand, if you start with outstanding wine, with fantastic fruit quality, and a great structure of alcohol, acidity, and tannins (when red), it will get further down the road for sure. A wine with excellent fruit expression will slowly develop those flavors, and along with the oak character, they will evolve into a more complex bouquet. The tannins will soften, the color will turn into brick hues, and the high acidity will ensure a persistent freshness.

Acidity

Wines lose acidity over time, so the acidity must be moderately high.

Tannins

The polyphenols, like tannins, stabilize the color and flavor in the wine. Thus, wines with moderate or high tannin from oak or grape have more aging potential.

Sweetness

Sugars have been used as a fruit preservative for centuries. The same ideology behind fruit preserves also has applied for centuries to dessert wines and wines with high sweetness levels.

Alcohol level

Alcohol acts as a stabilizer in higher amounts (e.g., fortified wines and some dry wines with >15%+ ABV).

Here are 3 basic rules to choose whether to lay down your wine to aging or not.

Rule #1

Check the tier and use your perception.

The first rule might seem a bit esoteric, but our advice is to trust your gut. Let's say you just bought a simple wine around 10$ in the supermarket, and a friend gave you a 40$ bottle she/he got from his/her favorite Wine Club, which one would you instinctively save for later?

In general, wines bellow 30$ have a more simple and straightforward structure with low or moderate complexity as it is intended to be popped soon after you purchased it.

Rule #2

Fresh whites and rose are intended to be drunk young.

For the most part, if you're drinking white or rosé wine, these wines should be consumed in the season in which they're bought. Look for the vintage year, and enjoy it within 1-2 years from it.

What are the exceptions? Some white wines age exceptionally well, think for instance:

Chardonnay from Burgundy

German Riesling

Austrian Gruner Veltliner

White dessert wine like Sauternes

High-end vintage Champagne

Loire Chenin Blancs: as Vouvray and Montlouis

Rule #3

When it comes to reds, some grape varieties have aging potential, but that doesn't mean all wines must be aged.

Typically, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Nebbiolo, and Pinot Noir are varieties vinified in traditional ways so wines can be aged. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah/Shiraz, for instance, have high tannin and acidity to age well. Still, some winemakers deliberately want to make them accessible when young, so they tone down the tannin at the vineyard or the cellar, so you don't have to wait for them to soften at home. Similarly, a light and juicy Pinot Noir might be best enjoyed when young while a more structured and intense Pinot Noir will evolve amazingly for decades.

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