If you have decided to start or expand a wine collection, then one of the first things you will need to learn is which types of wine are best for ageing. While many wine fans, dreaming of an incredible custom built wine cellar packed with hundreds of fancy bottles of luxurious wine from around the world, will think that wine is made to be aged, the reality is that around 95 percent of all wine is made to be drunk within a year or two of it being bottled.
Deciding which wine you age is largely down to what flavour you best enjoy from the drink. If you prefer wines with a fruitier flavour, then it is perhaps best to stick to younger wines which have not been aged, as these will present the best fruity notes. However, if you prefer a smoother wine with more developed flavours, then ageing a wine can improve it to best suit your preferences.
Wine can change in a number of ways over time. For one, the colour of the wine will get darker and sometimes duller, giving red wines a brown tinge, and white wines a more golden hue. The flavours and aromas present in a bottle of wine will also evolve over time, as the tannins soften. This also helps to soften the wine, changing its texture.
Which Wines Are Best For Ageing?
Unfortunately, there is not a set of rules or guidelines which will determine whether or not a particular wine is suitable for ageing, instead, you must carefully consider its characteristics. Factors such as grape variety, vine age, terroir, vintage, ageing methods and bottle types all play a part in determining whether a wine will be good for ageing. However, some of these characteristics may not be immediately apparent from the label of the wine, and cannot definitively be said to produce age-worthy wines (e.g. not all wines made from a particular grape will be good for ageing).
Some good indicators of a wine being suitable for longer term storage and ageing include:
High Levels of Acidity
As wine tends to lose some of its flavour and freshness over time, it is important to choose a wine that has a high level of acidity. If you age a lower acidity wine, then over time as the wine softens, it will eventually become too dull and flat when the time comes to drink it. Picking a wine with a higher acidity level to start will present a better chance of survival for the wine, as it is more likely to still taste fresh, even after several years.
High Levels of Tannins
Similarly, wines with higher levels of tannins are a good pick, as they are likely to keep for longer. The amount of tannins present in the wine is often down to the type of grape used, as well as how long the skins and pips of the grapes have been in contact with the juice during the winemaking process. Younger wines that are packed with tannins can often taste a little harsh, so these are some of the best wines for ageing, as the effect can help to soften the textures and flavours of the wine. Some older wines that have been left to age will often have sediment in the bottle, and this comes from the tannins. If this is the case after you have aged your wine, then you may wish to decant your wine.
Comes From a Cooler Climate
Wine that is produced in, or uses grapes from, a cooler climate will typically age better than that produced in a warmer region. Wines from warmer regions will taste fruity to start with but can become flat quicker as it loses its acidity, and so is not as good at standing the test of time. With this in mind, the vintage is also an important thing to consider, as even if the wine comes from a typically cooler region, if the vintage in question was particularly hot, then this can cause similar problems.
Moderate Alcohol Levels
Commonly, wines that contain a higher percentage of alcohol, such as Port or Sherry, can last far longer than standard wines when opened, lasting for around a month or so, in comparison to only a day or two for a standard red. However, for ageing wines, the opposite is often true. Wines that contain higher than 13.5 percent ABV will often fall victim to oxidation a lot quicker than less alcoholic wines, and this can quickly spoil a bottle. To avoid this, wines should be of a moderate alcohol level.
Sweet and Fruity Wines
Generally, sweeter wines last longer than drier wines. It is also important to pick a wine with intense and complex fruity flavours. This is due to the fact that an age-worthy wine needs higher levels of tannins, acidity and alcohol, so the fruity flavours are really needed to balance out these other elements. Over time, the fruity flavours in wine change and lessen, so a wine that isn’t particularly fruity to begin with will not taste fruity at all once it has been aged, and the acidic and tannic flavours may become overpowering.
Do you age any of your wine bottles? Let us know which special bottles you have waiting in your wine cellar and when you plan to open them by leaving a comment below or getting in touch via our social media channels.