Norton Safeweb

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Should You Age Your Wine?

Probably not. As least not in the typical sense of laying a wine down for many years.

A question that comes up with red wines is, "How long should I age it?" There are a lot of factors going into answering this. The biggest issue is with people thinking in terms of five or ten years or more. More often than not people will be disappointed.

I'm talking about California wines and realize there are always exceptions. If you have a temperature-controlled wine fridge or a wine cellar then maybe this isn't for you. Or some of it still could be. This is aimed primarily at the other 99% of us.

Age it on the kitchen counter?
This is how you destroy wine
Do you love the wine now?

Assuming you've tasted the wine and love it enough to buy it will you love it even more in a decade? If you're looking for the answer here I don't have it for you.

What's an aged wine taste like?

Different. It'll taste different. The fresh fruit flavors dissipate and tannins soften. The wine becomes more integrated meaning there's more of a balance between components.

So why bother aging wine?

There are wines that are made to age. The wine maker makes it in a style that may seem tight and tannic when young. Higher acid wines (these are generally lower alcohol, too) age better. These wines are the minority of New World wines.

Some varieties just do better with age. I'm thinking about what you'd call big reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petite Sirah.

How can you know whether you'll like it better in a few years?

It comes down to finding a wine's peak. When is that? How long does it last? Every wine is different as is pretty much every aging environment. Ideally, if you want to get a nice wine with the plan to age it then you could buy at least six, better yet a case. Then every couple years you can have a bottle and see if you should keep waiting or drink up.

So now that you've been talked out of aging wine...

Actually, some whites and pretty much any red wine will improve with some age. I mean a year or two with decent temperature control and no direct sunlight. If you just picked up a nice Cab you can store it on the floor of a closet for awhile and it should improve. However, if you set it on the kitchen counter I'd say drink it within a few weeks.

So it comes down to ...

Personal preference - Some people prefer young, fruity wines. Some like 'em mellow.
Your storage - Average temperature, temp swings, and light are just some of the things to worry about.

For my own personal preference and mediocre cellaring conditions I find most reds, such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel, are nicer about five after vintage date (drinking 2011s in 2016, for instance). Heavier reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon, about seven-to-ten after the vintage date on the bottle. Your results will most likely be different.