Reader Question - Does all red wine get better with age?

01/19/2009 23:48

Actual Reader Question:

Quick question…Does all red wine get better with age?  If I were to buy a 10 dollar bottle and cellar it for a few years would it be a better wine or is that a waste?  How do you know which wines can be cellared?

Benjamin F. in Boston, Massachusetts


Great question, and one that isn't covered as widely as you may think. Many of the wines that are sold today are designed for drinking in the short term. In fact, many of our readers report they usually drink wine within a few days of purchase. The winemaker that likely made the $10 bottle you refer to knows this and has made the wine to be drinkable shortly after its release.

That said, many wines do get better with age as over time things like the blending of fruit, the tannins, and the alcohol will help the wine develop character.

Besides sounding cool at dinner parties, many wine enthusiasts will cellar wines for any number of reasons, such as investment (careful because less than 5% of all wine is investment grade, just like a very small percentage of tuna is sushi grade) or posterity.

We'd also like to make a distinction between cellaring and storing. Regardless of whether or not you want to cellar your wines, proper storage is key as things such as heat, light, and a lack of humidity will hurt a wine over time.

It's always a wise idea to ask your local wine merchant about the cellaring prospects of certain wines. When in doubt, don't be afraid to contact the winery. Wineries today are very open to fielding inquiries from their customers.

The list below offers some "in general" guidelines on the cellaring potential of some popular grapes:

Long Term (10+ years) - Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port
Medium Term (6-10 years) - Champagne, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Red Zinfandel, Sauternes, Sangiovese, Shiraz
Younger (0-5 years) - Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc



Topic: Reader Question - Does all red wine get better with age?

Age of wine

Blair Edwards 08/15/2014
It's sad. For the middle-knowledge wine enthusiast like myself, any question of how long to age a given wine gets a vague, generic, "well, it depends" answer. That's NO help.

Exceptions - "Old World" Sangiovese & Pinot Noir

Daniel Altieri 04/10/2009
Bravo on the "in general" recommendations...I agree for the most part, though want to add one comment on Sangiovese, Italian reds, and "Old World" wines in general, with a recommendation that if you are going to cellar wine you should always try to cellar 3 bottles or more. That gives you an option to crack one open after a year or a few, then decide to wait or drink the rest depending on how well the opened bottle has held up.

The author is dead on about the types of grapes that hold up better than others, yet there is a big difference found in relation to cellaring more so based on WHERE the wine was produced and WHEN as to whether it is worth cellaring regarless of price. The wines being produced in less traditional areas like Australia, Chile, Argentina, and the USA (generally "New World" producers) are more likely to fit the "drink it soon" mold. "Old World" wines (pretty much everything from Europe with a fancy title) would be more likely to hold up in the cellar for longer.

Check out this URL to:<a href="">a chart offered by Wine Spectator</a> on which wines would be worth holding onto.

For example, in France the Burgundy region produces wine mostly from Pinot Noir grapes and in almost all but the oldest of years and in all regions of Burgundy you could hold onto the wine for a few more years. From personal experience, I have had a few bottles of Sangiovese from 1958, 1975, and 1977 from a "no-name" producer that had been properly cellared from the year of release and they were phenominal - original price per CASE was 4.00, 10.00, and 12.00 respectively! Moral of the story, if it is the right type of wine from the right place you can cellar it and see what happens.

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