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Age Your Wine, Or Not?

October 10, 2010

A commonly asked question is “How long should I keep my wine?” It’s a tough question because the answer is never straight-forward. Although, it can be easily answered that most wines are made for immediate consumption. In other words, don’t save your everyday wines for years of bottle aging. They won’t likely get better, and could easily lose their young, fresh vibrancy and be left with little else.

How do you know what wines can age? One of the telling factors, generally, is price. No, that $6 or $10 or even $15 bottle of wine will not get better with age, sorry. Drink it soon, or at least within a few years for reds. For whites, it’s best to drink them up within a year, two at most. But don’t be shy, experiment a little. Or if you come across that 4 year old, inexpensive chardonnay that you forgot about, by all means tty it and see how it’s holding up.

The elements that allow wines to age with grace are sugar, tannins, acidity, and good structure (which means a well-made wine, generally not a mass produced factory wine). The more of these elements, the longer the potential aging window.

To go back to the earlier benchmark, age-able wines will generally cost a little more. I’ve kept some $15 to $20 wines for a couple of years, and some wines that were $25 to $40 for three to five years. I’m still aging wines that are 8 to 15 years old that were all north of $30, a couple of them over $100. Just remember that there is no hard-and-fast rule concerning this, just a little bit of common sense. That $50 bottle that promises to be excellent better be able to age a few years from its vintage, right?!

As with any wines that you hope to age, the longer you want to keep it the more important it becomes to store it properly. There is an earlier post about this topic, so I won’t get back into it now. Look for that article here:

Aside from price, the best bet to know if a wine can improve with age is to ask a knowledgeable person where you bought the bottle (store or winery).

But this now leads to the next point about aging: make sure that it’s what you want. Most wine drinkers have had, as an example, plenty of young cabernet sauvignon, but haven’t experienced one with ten years of bottle age. It can be a much different experience, but in my (and most wine lovers) opinions, well worth the patience. That sounds like another topic, so look back for a new post about what varieties are the best for aging, how they typically behave over time, and the best way to get into the practice of aging your wine for future enjoyment.


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