Most wines are ready to drink as soon as you get home from the store. Many—especially in the $12-$25 range—do not improve with bottle age. But what about those that grow wonderful with time?
For starters, many wines that need bottle age are not released until after several years of bottle age, so the winery does some of the aging work for you. There are white wines that improve with age, but in simple terms, when you think of aged wines, think reds. Guidelines:
• Nebbiolo. Italian red from regions of Barolo and Barbaresco are royalty of aged wines. They start with very high tannins that soften and sweeten over time. A lot of time. They begin to hit their stride after 15 years in bottle, and peak at 30 or more. Acknowledging this, the wines cannot even be released until three to five-plus years after making, depending on the classification. If you buy “young”, decant for two hours or so.
• Tempranillo, sangiovese. Great wines of Rioja (tempranillo) and Chianti (sangiovese) hit their stride after around 10 years and improve until they are 25 years or older. Both these varieties, by the way, are red wine stars in Texas.
• Mourvèdre/monastrell/mataro (all same grape). Improve with eight to 20 years of bottle age. This is another grape that has done well in Texas, as well as its major regions in Spain and southern Rhône.
• Cabernet sauvignon, merlot. These do best from three to 20 years of age. Exceptional Bordeuax blends can do well with many more years, but average cab, merlot, or blend has less aging potential than the varieties listed above.
• Syrah, pinot noir, grenache. You should be drinking them by bottle age 15.
• Malbec. Because of relaxed tannins, drinking window is five to 10 years.
• Zinfandel. These babies should be consumed by age eight, at the latest.
• Tannat, xinomavro, aglianico. You may not be familiar with these. Tannat is lead grape in Uruguay—a rising region in the wine world. Xinomavro is leading red grape in Greece and Macedonia. Aglianico is major grape in southern Italy, and a rising star in Texas. All can age for 25 years or more.
Of course there are caveats and exceptions, but these are general rules about wines to save in your cellar/wine fridge. If you have the patience.
Last round: What is the difference between a guy and a bottle of wine? Wine matures with age.