A Quick Guide to Wine Aging

© Chappellet Vineyard
By Megan Krigbaum Posted September 18, 2015

Not every wine gets better as it ages, but the ones that do undergo a miraculous metamorphosis. F&W’s Megan Krigbaum explains the transformation and reveals a few bottles that stand the test of time.

Not every wine gets better as it ages, but the ones that do undergo a miraculous metamorphosis. F&W’s Megan Krigbaum explains the transformation and reveals a few bottles that stand the test of time.

The Truth About Aging

Myth: All wines improve as they age.
Truth: For a wine to age well, it needs a backbone of acidity or tannins. Without this structure, flavors flatten over time. Even ageable wines can go through phases in the bottle where they’re especially expressive or a little closed down (“dumb,” in wine speak).

Myth: White wine doesn’t age as well as red wine.
Truth: A lot of white wines are best when young and fresh. But many fuller-bodied whites become extraordinarily honeyed and nutty with age.

Myth: Old wines are objectively superior.
Truth: Certainly some people love the way wines change as they age. As reds mature, for instance, the bitter tannins mellow and subtle, earthy flavors emerge. But whether those flavors are better is a matter of taste—plenty of people prefer the boisterous fruit and tangy acidity of younger wines.

Sediment Lesson
It’s completely normal for wines—both red and white—to produce sediment as they mature. In red wine, tannins, which give structure, link up to form long, dense protein chains that sink to the bottom of the bottle. As those tannins fall out, the wine becomes softer and more supple. To avoid serving glasses of sludge, gently decant these wines, leaving the sediment in the bottle.

5 Wines to Buy Now, Drink Later:

1. White Burgundy 2013 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Les Creots Saint-Aubin ($51) Worth the investment. From a young Burgundy star, it has vibrant acidity, minimal oak and tons of fruit.

2. German Riesling 2013 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling ($25) A fantastic wine from a very tough vintage, with vivid acidity and concentrated fruit.

3. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon ($56)  Some people criticize Napa Cabs as too oaky, but over time they smooth out beautifully. Chappellet uses one-half new oak, which bolsters the wine’s backbone.

4. Rioja 2010 Marqués de Murrieta Reserva Rioja ($26) The 2010 vintage was spectacular in Rioja. This red, from century-old vines, has ample tannins and acidity.

5. Bordeaux 2011 Château Aney Haut-Médoc ($24) An incredible value for Bordeaux made predominantly with Cabernet. Its tannins become more subtle with age, and the wine’s aroma more stunning.

Related: Age-Worthy Wines
Cooking With Red Wine
Old Worl Wine Pairings

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