Shall it Age?: 5 Tips for Picking Out an Ageworthy Wine
Photo: Wine Cellars HQ
Not all wines are meant for aging and truth be told less than 5% of wines world-wide are produced with the intentions of making the bottle ageworthy. As a shift toward modern vinification techniques has occurred in recent decades, more bottles are being produced so that they can be enjoyed fairly young. Nevertheless there are a number of wines that you can rest assured will have developed complex layers of aromas and flavors over time and the following are tips on how to pick these bottles out.
1. Check the Price. Sure there are some bottles that you can get at bargain prices, but by and large those that are rather expensive and have several years under their belt fetch that price for a good reason. The high price of the bottle is a result of someone investing time and their cellar space. It’s highly unlikely someone would invest such invaluable assets on a bottle that’s going to crash after a couple of years. After all, if they sold a bad bottle their reputation as a merchant would be severely tarnished and in this business, reputation for high quality service is paramount as good reputations can be destroyed much easier than they can be built.
2. Buy wine produced with grape varieties with a proven track record for aging potential. Red wines that have shown to age the best are those produced from Nebbiolo (Barolo and Barbaresco), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir while those made from Cab Franc and Gamay are not the safe bet and should be consumed early. White wines with enough concentration of fruit flavor and acidity will age well such as those produced from Riesling, Chardonnay, and some Pinot Gris, but most white wines will die out early as they are much more susceptible to harmful oxidation than red wines.
3. Some styles other than still age well. Champagnes are safe bets for aging. The high acidity and pressurized bottle will ensure that your favorite bottles of bubbly will age for several years and even decades! It’s best to seek out the best producers. Look for Grower Champagnes! Madeira wine has a nearly indestructible structure as a result of its vinification style so it is a safe bet for aging. A majority of Port does not tend to age as well. Only the high quality Vintage Ports are ageworthy. Sherry does not improve with time as it has already undergone some oxidation as a result of its time spent in the solera.
4. Take advantage of tastings. Many merchants will let you taste wine prior to selling you a case or bottle. Allocation permitting, you will be able to personally evaluate the quality of the wine that is being sold. This is how you can tell the difference between a high quality ageworthy wine and a low quality dud. If the tannins are tight and the fruit is lacking, you should pass on the bottle. If the tannins are astringent and the fruit is concentrated, you’ve found a bottle worth sitting on as those tannins will soften over time and the flavors will develop complexity with age.
5. Seek out a handful of reputable producers and winemakers to buy from. Buying wines from artisanal wine shops ensures that wine you are buying has been carefully selected by a group of trained tasters who can provide you with a solid foundation of names to follow. Additionally they should be able to guide you to a bottle from an exceptional vintage so consult them on their knowledge of vintages as well.