In a previous post, we discussed the key factors to keep in mind when storing your wine collection. Humidity, temperature and light exposure can impact the quality of your wine over time.
It’s also important to take into consideration where the wine was made, the cost of the wine and varietal characteristics. These aspects can help you determine if a wine should be stored, and how long to age it.
The Role of Tannins
Tannins refer to the dryness often tasted in wine. Tannins come from the seeds, stems and skins of the grapes, and also from the wood barrels used for aging at the winery. Red wines in particular are known for being “tannic” because they get their color from the stems and skins.
Tannins are a natural preservative that prolong the life of wine, and are a key component when determining how long to age a wine. Generally speaking, the more tannic a wine, the longer it can be stored. Wines that are very tannic are typically too harsh to drink upon purchasing, and will achieve optimum balance with aging.
Wine Aging Considerations
Ninety percent of wines are designed to drink immediately, and will not benefit from long-term storage. Other premium wines, by nature, become better with age, and will be more enjoyable if given to time to mature.
Consider the following factors when aging your personal wine collection:
- Cost– In most cases, the more expensive the wine, the longer you should be able hold onto it. Everyday wines in the $10 range are already at their peak and should be enjoyed within a shorter timeframe.
Because there are exceptions, research the winery and vintage, and consult with the winemaker if possible, for recommendations on optimum wine storage time.
- Grape – While red wines are typically best suited for aging due to their tannic nature, some whites make good candidates. According to modern-wine-cellar.com, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, and shiraz/syrah are common grapes that age well.
For whites, stick with chardonnay, Riesling and sauvignon blanc. Because white wines are not made with grape stems or skins, and only receive tannic characteristics from the barrel, most whites should be consumed sooner than later.
Check out modern-wine-cellar.com’s list of recommended storage times for various kinds of wines.
- Region – It is also important to consider the region where the wine was made. “Old World” wines, such as those made in Northern Europe, typically require more time in the bottle to allow the wine to develop. Due to the colder climate in this region, the grapes have less time on the vine, and require aging to allow the acidity, sugar and tannins to stabilize.
On the flip side, “New World” wines, such as those from Australia or California, are made from grapes that have less acid and higher sugar. This balance makes young New World wines more approachable.
To Drink, or Not to Drink
There is certainly not an exact science when determining how long a wine should be aged. By understanding the role of tannins, cost, grape and region, you can make an educated decision on whether to enjoy that bottle now, or hold onto it for a special occasion later.
Don’t forget that, regardless of the type of wine, wine storage conditions are imperative to protecting your wine from damage. By storing your wine in an environment that has consistent temperatures (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit), minimal light and ideal percentage of humidity, you can help ensure that your wine maintains its integrity over time.
Are you a wine collector? What suggestions do you have when deciding how long to age wine?
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