We’ve all grown up to the idea that “wine improves with age”. I’m pretty sure most of you own at least one bottle of red wine that you’ve kept for long, long years, leaving it for a special occasion. Now, what would you say if I told you that it probably tastes really… bleeehh by now? Yup. That’s a fact. Shocked?
Less than 10% of the wine produced worldwide is made to be aged. Contrary to what you may think – and thank God! – spending more money on a bottle of wine does not guarantee that it will age well. Actually, most wines made today do not get better with age and are not made to live long at all, no matter the price tag.
How long does a regular wine bottle live, then?
Generally speaking, most mass market wines are good to be drunk within one year of bottling. This goes for rosés, the majority of white wines, and even basic entry level red wines. However, we can assume that:
- A basic red wine can live up to 5 years in good conditions
- A basic white and rosé can live up to 2-3 years in good conditions
Wait, what are “good conditions”?
Well, not your kitchen, of course. The fluctuating temperatures from the oven and the fridge can fast-track the aging, which oxidizes the wine faster aka. spoils it.
A great place to store your wines till you drink them is a dark and cool cupboard in a bedroom you don’t use much, lying on their sides. Or anywhere similar, really. Just don’t expose them to high temperatures, lots of light, and strong smells, as these factors damage wines. Also, don’t keep a bottle with a natural cork standing too long. The cork would dry and oxygen would start going in.
So, you mean everyone is lying about aging?!
No, no! There are grand and very expensive wines, mostly from France and Italy, designed to be stored for years, or even decades – but no, not 100s of years – after being bottled and put on the market. Also, fortified wines and sweet wines have a tendency to live longer. Even those would go bad if stored in bad conditions, or left to age way after they should be. However, there are always exceptions to the rule – like when an unexpected wine ages amazingly.
And what actually happens to a wine when it ages?
Well, a deep red wine starts to lose its reddish blue hue and gain a more orange tint. White wines, however, go the opposite way and start getting darker shades as they age.
As for flavor, usually wines with fruitiness don’t do well with age, as they start losing the fruit with time. Contrarily, wines that are very tannic become milder as they grow old.
Finally, here are some suggestions by world renown and highly respected wine critic, Jancis Robinson, on how long a high quality bottle of wine can age according to wine type:
Beaujolais 1 to 5 years
Zinfandel 2 to 12 years
Pinot Noir, red burgundy 2 to 15 years
Sangiovese, Chianti, Brunello 3 to 12 years
Douro, Portuguese reds 4 to 12 years
Grenache, southern Rhône reds 4 to 15 years
Cabernet Franc 4 to 16 years
Merlot 4 to 18 years
Tempranillo 4 to 20 years
Syrah, northern Rhône reds 5 to 25 years
Cabernet Sauvignon 5 to 25 years
Nebbiolo, Barolo 10 to 30 years
Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño 1 to 2 years
Muscat 1 to 3 years
Rhône-ish whites 2 to 5 years
Gewürztraminer 2 to 6 years
Chenin Blanc 2 to 10 years
Chardonnay, white burgundy 2 to 10 years
Chablis 2 to 12 years
Riesling 3 to 15 years
Almost all rosés are best drunk between 1 and 2 years old and, even better, as young as possible.
Prosecco, Moscato as young as possible
Cava, crémants 1 to 2 years
Non-vintage champagne 1 to 5 years
Vintage champagne 2 to 10 years
These wines are usually released when they are ready to drink, except for:
Single-quinta vintage port 2 to 20 years
Vintage port 15 to 40 years
So my advice for you is to go to your kitchen now and move all of your wine bottles. While you’re at it, open that 10 year-old wine because you will probably miss out on it’s good flavors if you wait longer.
See you soon with another glass of red!