Aging wine or cellaring wine is a complex matter. Not all varieties of grapes are capable of being aged and even wines that are usually aged in Europe are often made to be enjoyed sooner in the U.S. However, without knowing the ideal storing temperature or length to age, you may be missing out on your wine’s best flavor profile.
I have started to collect quite a few bottles over the years. Though I have a vague idea of how long they should be aged, I needed to make sure I wasn’t missing an important date. So I did a little bit of research to find out when to dust off those old bottles from the cellar.
The wine’s type, origin and vintage will determine whether it should be consumed young or old. But it’s not that simple! In fact, there are many factors that will affect a wine’s ageability potential…
• the varietal
• the location
• the weather
• the winegrower
• the harvest
• the vintage
• the winemaker
• the bottling
• the cork
• the transportation
• and finally, the storage
Yikes! This seems awfully complicated. So how can we be so sure about a wine’s peaking year? How long should we wait before opening that bottle? How do we know if a wine is age worthy? … Let’s find out.
Based on what I’ve read, 99% of the wine produced in the world should not be cellared and is meant to be drunk young. When you think about it, this is probably why drinking an aged wine – or premium wine – is romanticized to such a great extent, because so few bottles in the world actually benefit from, and can handle, sitting around for such a long time.
I spotted an interesting rule of thumb about on the internet that says “almost all wines priced around $30 and under are meant to be drunk now, or within 2 years.” Sadly, that eliminates about half of my wine collection. Conveniently, I now have some serious drinking to do ; )
So let’s recap… Most wines worth cellaring are considered premium wines. They represent only 1% of our global wine production. And you can expect them to cost at least $30 a bottle. Now what?
In spite of the ultra scientific aspect of the winemaking process, the wine industry remains at the mercy of mother nature. Wine aging can vary drastically from one vintage to the next. The winemaking industry has decades of historical figures. They can compare notes with the past and find similar conditions. Based on those precious specs, they can come up with some very accurate predictions about any given wine.
Additionally, they are able to mesure and study very precisely the structural specs of the wine throughout the entire winemaking process. The four principal characteristics of an age-worthy wine are acidity, tannin structure, alcohol level and residual sugar. The perfect balance of these four components is the key to wine aging [and eternal happiness]. The findings are crucial to the vinification, and can already formulate a pretty accurate aging forecast.
Also, keep in mind that part of what helps a wine to age appropriately is the sulfites in it. Sulfites are natural preservatives already found on most grapes. It is also added during the winemaking process. ALL wine contains sulfite. Low-sulfite wines will tend not to last as long.
Though science and history help determine wine ageability, the winemaker’s palate remains the most influential prognosis. When in doubt, always ask the winemaker. He crafted the wine with his own hands. He knows it inside and out and chances are, he’ll know exactly when it is going to mature. Furthermore, the winemaker has access to hundreds of bottles that he’s able to open year after year. As a result, he gets a pretty good sense for how the wine is aging, and how fast.
Based on what we learned about proper wine aging, I designed a little chart and a wine aging guide to quickly and simply show how long wine can be aged, and when it should be enjoyed.
It takes years to be able to determine if a wine is age-worthy but I don’t quit so easily! Practice makes perfect and I practice hard. I am determined to master the art of wine tasting… Wine not ; )
• A Trip To Burgundy (the mysterious wine from a 1947 vintage)
• Recorking Wine
• How To Store A Wine Bottle
• Wine Changing Process
• Wine – A Good Investment?
• Spiral Wine Cellars
• Get Your Own Wine Rack