Age it or drink it?
Question from Peter: Your post on how to cellar wine got me wondering – what are the best types of wine to age?
In a nut shell – Most wines are made to be drunk within the first few years and very few wines will improve with age. As a general rule if they’re high in acid, tannin, sugar and/or alcohol you’re on the money. Even better, if they’re expensive and French (I’m not even kidding)! More on that below.
In a clam shell – True story! You’ve always thought the longer you age a wine for the better it will taste. I’m going to bust that myth and tell you that most wines will deteriorate with age rather than improve.
However, it is true that certain types of wine improve with age. As a general rule the most expensive wines are designed to age. And when I say ‘designed’ I mean it – uniquely manufactured for the purpose of longevity. Wine is a living thing which deteriorates (just like we do). Most cheap wines will get worse with age so don’t buy a cheapie hoping that you’ll create a masterpiece if you leave it for 20 years (you’ll create a monster).
Wines that are high in acid (Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir), high in tannins (Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo), high in sugar (Sauternes, Late Harvest, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein) and/or high in alcohol will age better because the acid, tannin, sugar and/or alcohol acts as a preservative. So if you’re in the market for a bottle you can age think high acid and high sugar for a double whammy or high acid, high tannin, high alcohol for a triple pearler!
How long should you age your wine for?
Age if you must (1-3 years) – Pinot Gris/Grigio, dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc.
Age till you get anxious (3-5 years) – Pinot Noir, Grenache, oaked Chardonnay, Semillon, Gewurztraminer, Vouvray.
Age for a bit longer if you have the will power (5-10 years) – Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, White Bordeaux (that’s Sauvignon Blanc from the Bordeaux region in France), White oaked Burgundy (that’s oaked Chardonnay from the Burgundy region in France), Chablis (that’s Chardonnay, sometimes oaked and sometimes not, from the Burgundy region in France), Auslese (that’s sweet Riesling from Germany), Chianti (that’s Sangiovese from Tuscany).
Age forrrrreeevvveeeerrrr if it’s an investment (10-20 years) – Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Red Bordeaux (that’s either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bordeaux region in France), Grand Cru Chablis (that’s Chardonnay from the best wineries in the Burgundy region in France), Sauternes (that’s a dessert wine from the Bordeaux region in France, Late Harvest (another sweetie), Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (turbo sweet Germany wines).
If I’ve confused you by throwing in Bordeaux and Grand Cru WHAT Burgundy keep reading.
Interesting fact I read here – Less than 1% of all the wines in the world are investment grade and of that Bordeaux makes up 80% of them. The other 20% comes from top producers in Burgundy, Rhône Valley and Champagne (France) or Tuscany and Piedmont (northern Italy) which leads me to my rant about France.
Da da da daaaaaa Bordeaux! If you want to age a winner, Bordeaux is the bomb! Do it! Age Bordeaux! Bordeaux is a region in southwest France (it’s also a town in that region just to confuse things). You want to age Bordeaux from Médoc or Saint-Emilion, which are both towns in the Bordeaux region. Médoc produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Saint-Emilion produces Merlot. It’s also worth aging Pinot Noir from the best wineries in Burgundy (they’re called Grand Cru). Burgundy is a region in northeast France. If Syrah is your tipple, age Syrah that’s comes from Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage in the Rhône Valley in France (that’s a region down south).
If we’re talking whites age Chardonnay from Burgundy, particularly from the town of Chablis or Sauvignon Blancs from Graves (that’s a town in the Bordeaux region of France) or dessert wines from Sauternes (that’s a town in the Bordeaux region of France).
Lastly, why on earth do we age wine? How does it get better? To be honest old wine isn’t necessarily better it’s just different (I prefer to drink young wine myself). The fruit flavours disappears in cheap wines that are aged and nothing else really develops except for unpleasant wet leave and mushroom flavours. Boring and mostly yuck! In wines that have been designed to age the fruit favours remain and develop more complexity (think stewed and dried fruits and earthy flavours). But if you like your wine crisp and fresh drink it young.
It’s personal preference. Day to day I like to drink relatively young wines (under five years) but just because I should, I’m going to stock up on wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux when I’m over there in September perhaps as a little investment. Check in again in 10-20 years to see how they’ve developed!