Aging wine is kind of a myth. Truth to tell, most don’t get better. Only the top wines in the world will benefit from aging. However, we have to remember that most wine is locally produced and locally consumed. Most of us don’t drink local wine in a sidewalk trattoria, but much of the world’s wine is consumed this way. Those folks aren’t concerned with aging wine.
Aging Wine: Which Ones?
The wine we buy in stores is some of the top stuff in the world. Even some of the top stuff won’t get any better with aging. If it has a screw cap, most people say drink it now. Although recent information seems to show that wines with a screw cap will age as well as wines with a cork, the industry is not 100% sure yet. White wines from the U.S., South America, or Australia are probably best to drink now. Some French whites will change/improve with age. Almost any Champagne or other sparkling wine can be consumed as soon as you buy it, even though Champagne can age for a long time. Other than collectors, most people won’t wait that long. They are not concerned with aging wine either.
Red wines are generally considered better candidates for aging. A good rule of thumb is this: the more expensive the wine, the more aging potential it has. In general, European reds will age longer than U.S. red wines. Again, in general, the lighter the wine, the sooner you should drink it. Sorry to get geeky, but a wine’s structure and balance determine its aging potential. Stuff like tannin, acid, alcohol and fruit – that kind of thing. Whenever I recommend a wine that should be aged, I’ll say so. For instance, If you have a red with gobs of fruit, but little tannin or acid, don’t bother to age it. It won’t be worth the effort. That doesn’t mean the wine won’t be OK for a couple of years; it just isn’t going to get any better.
Aging Wine: How To Start
You have to be pretty serious about wine to think about “laying some down”, which is wine geekspeak for aging wine. You will require will power, money, and patience, not necessarily in that order. If you bought a case of a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon for 60-70 bucks a bottle, and it needed about 10 years to reach its potential, would you wait 10 years to drink it? I won’t mention what happened when I did that. Let’s just say I’m not sure I ever drank any of it at its peak. It was pretty good, though.
We’ll assume for the sake of discussion that 1) you spent the money, and 2) you’ll wait the 10 years. Now it’s time to talk about how much wine you want to hold on to and how much more you want to spend to store it properly. Yes, I’m talking about more money. Proper wine storage is not cheap. We’ll get into some specifics in another article, but know this: even buying something as simple as a temperature controlled cabinet could be the first step toward wine geekdom. Tread carefully.