Aging wine 2-2-2022

You get seriously into wine. You decide to put down some bottles to drink in the distant future. What should you expect?

First, almost all wine sold today is made to be drunk now and is unlikely to improve with age. If you are contemplating cellaring your wine for an extended period, chose wine worthy of your patience. Expect to spend serious money—likely more than $100 a bottle. Since many people buy multiple bottles to age and regularly check on how their wine is maturing, you are looking at a four-figure investment.

Wine goes through three stages as it ages—youth, peak, past peak. In youth, age-worthy wine typically is drinkable but unbalanced with more tannin and acidity than you likely enjoy. Tannins and acidity are what make it age-worthy.

At its peak, tannins have mellowed, acidity has relaxed, the wine will be smooth on the palate. At the same time, the fruit will not be as lively and fresh but will still be noticeable and delicious. The color probably will mature from ruby to garnet.

St. Cosme bottle aging

When a wine is past its peak it will still be drinkable. Balance remains, but the elements will be muted. In worst case, the wine will be blah.

There is a misconception that a wine that is out of balance—tannins rampant, officious oak, Brobdingnagian ripe fruitiness—will “come around” with some age. Don’t take that bet. Quality, age-worthy wines are completely drinkable in their youth, they just get better with some age. Bad wines stay bad.

Almost all wine you can buy today is ready to drink now. Some assertive reds benefit from a limited time in bottle, but you usually can achieve the same result by decanting. We have the privilege of living in a golden age of wine. More choice and higher quality than at any other time in human history. Put down some bottles to see what happens in 10 years? Sure. I will admire your patience and self-control. It may or may not improve your wine.

Tasting note:

I present something different here. As part of my research for this column I opened a bottle of Saint Cosme Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007 I put down for aging. Click here for my extensive tasting note and comments about aging

Last round: Did you know milk is the fastest liquid on earth? It’s pasteurized before you even see it. Wine time.