Aging wine

Aging is one of the more misunderstood aspects of wine.

Truth is, almost no wine in your local wine store must mature in your pantry/cellar to achieve drinkability.

Yes, years can make some reds softer, more supple, less astringent. But, if the wine requires tannin taming by laying down a few years in bottle, that is likely to happen at the winery before release. Wine makers figured out long ago when they sell a bottle, it better be drinkable when they sell it. The overwhelming majority of wine can be enjoyed the day you buy it.

Many wines can age. If you want to buy a quality case and drink a bottle each year on an anniversary, you have lots of choices. They remain delicious for years thanks to clean winemaking and good closures, and many will subtly evolve to reward your discipline. Some rough edges may get smoother and other changes may occur, but aging does not transform most wines into transcendent creations.

When you consider wines that dramatically improve with decades of aging, wines with ancient dust and woolly black fungi on the bottle, you are talking about a different, very rare thing typically not available at your local liquor store.

Wines that achieve true greatness through significant aging transform themselves, they do not simply gracefully age. The ability of a wine to be transformed by decades of cellaring is the difference between very good wine and epic wine, between a $120 bottle and a $1,800 bottle.

Most of us, certainly this writer, likely will never have the resources or opportunity to taste epic wine. Don’t lament. Enjoy the good. Tonight. Right after you bring it home from the store.


• Bodegas Valdelana Rioja 2006. Sour cherry, plum, red fruit, beef jerky; very tart; decant–flavors grow on you. Not for all, but give it a shot for $9.

• Hess Select Chardonnay Monterey 2010. Simple, straightforward chard; citrus, green apple, melon; clean, refreshing, nice for the price. $11

• Enkidu Fazekas Petite Sirah 2006. Smooth, smooth; fresh, smooth cherry, blackberry; dense, delicious; sturdy tannin, wonderfully smooth. Did we mention smooth? $33