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Affordable Wines for Aging

Not all wines age well, but many will benefit from a few years of rest. Below, what to buy and how to age it.

The Case for Short-Term Aging

When wines age, they change, and good wines change for the better—sometimes in as little as three years. With whites, tart acidity mellows; with reds, drying tannins become smoother and more inviting. Aromas intensify, shifting from fruity to nuanced. How rapid and how pronounced these changes are depends both on the wine and on storage conditions. Three or four years won’t bring a first-growth Bordeaux to maturity, but it can soften many other wines, and bring out new fragrances and flavors.

Which Wines Will Age

To develop over time—whether a few years or a few decades—a wine needs both fruit and structure (acidity and/or tannins), and those components need to be in balance. Among the good white possibilities for short-term aging are European and Australian Rieslings and focused French Chardonnays from the Mâconnais or Chablis. For reds, choose wines with firm tannins as well as ripe fruit: Southern French reds from the Rhône, good-quality affordable Bordeaux and Cabernets with a good tannic backbone rather than just fruit-juicy richness are all good choices. Avoid low-acid, full-bodied whites like many California Chardonnays; the lushness that can be appealing in youth quickly grows flabby. Similarly, juicy reds without much structure—many affordable Australian Shirazes, for instance—are best drunk as soon as possible.

Ideal Storage Conditions

Wine should be stored somewhere that’s cool, dark and relatively free of vibrations. An interior closet or a basement (away from the boiler) is a good option. In a perfect world, wine is stored at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but short-term storage at up to 65 degrees or so won’t damage it. Store bottles on their sides, so the corks won’t dry out.

Plus: Editor Picks: Affordable Wines for Aging »

Published September 2008
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