Aging Wine – Some Guidelines
How long will a wine age? Don’t wines get better with age? There are no simple answers to these questions, but the following guidelines should help you understand the topic of aging wine – all wines, not just Texas wines.
Most wines, estimated at 95%, are not made to age, but are intended to be consumed within a few hours, days or weeks of purchase. Most wines found on store or tasting room shelves today are produced to be fruit forward, easy-drinking, ready to consume beverages. These wines typically do not have the necessary framework of acidity and tannin required for aging. In a relatively short time, the aromas and flavors can diminish, making the wines less enjoyable, or even downright unpleasant. So, it is better to drink most wines soon after purchase to maximize your enjoyment of them. The nice thing about these wines is they tend to be lower in cost.
A reasonable number of wines produced today, estimated at 4.5%, do have ample acidity, tannins and structure to improve with age. However, this aging window should be measured in months (typically 6-24) rather than multiple years. Recent Facebook posts have highlighted some Texas wines that developed and improved over the course of 3, 5, 7, even 10+ years. But, these are exceptions that, through good vineyard and vintage conditions, along with quality wine making practices, were endowed with the necessary components and structure to survive mid-term aging. Typically, these wines will cost more. And, typically, they tend to be red wines with higher alcohol levels, 13.5-15.0%.
Only a few wines, estimated at <1%, are currently produced with the intent to have long term aging potential. Typically these wines come from top vineyards and growers, and are subjected to rigorous wine making conditions that assure the necessary framework of acidity, tannins and flavor components. Most often, these wines are limited in availability, are more difficult to find, and carry a significant price tag. They will age gracefully for 10+ years if kept under good cellar conditions.
In general, red wines age better than whites. Reds age well when endowed with good acidity and tannins. White wines do not have much tannin, but some with good acidity and/or significant sugar content can age surprisingly well, resulting in honeyed or toasted nut flavors. Remember that aged wines will taste differently than young wines. This becomes a matter of preference for wine consumers. If you really like bright fruit aromas and flavors, and tangy acidity, drink your wines earlier as these “young wine” characteristics tend to fade over time.
As a long-term wine consumer and collector, perhaps the most important guideline I can offer is that if you wish to age wines, either purchase a dedicated wine cooling unit or build a “cellar” with proper conditions to allow wines to age gracefully – cool (55 degF), humid (60-70%), dark and vibration-free. That decorative rack in the kitchen or dining room is not a good place to age wines. And, keep track of your wines so to limit the number that may advance to an “over-the-hill” age and be less enjoyable than had they been consumed earlier.
Adapted from various sources, including Winemaker Magazine, Wine Spectator, Wine and Spirits and Food and Wine.