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How Long to Age Wine
 
 

Knowing how long to age wines can seem difficult. There are many types of grapes, many methods of production, a great variety of storage conditions and an overwhelming number of personal preferences. Each of these factors has an impact on how long a wine should be held before drinking. In general, wines gain complexity and lose fruitiness as they age. Tannic red wines also mellow and become softer as they age. Once a wine reaches maturity, it will usually plateau before slowly going downhill. Different grapes make wines with different aging profiles. As an example, most Cabernet Sauvignons will age for longer periods than most Merlots.

Of all the wines produced, more than 90% are designed to be consumed within a couple of years after they are produced. Understand that it is just as possible to age a wine for too long a time as it is to age it for too little a time.

In general, more expensive wines are usually designed to become better with age. Most inexpensive wines do not benefit from aging.

 
 

Each of these suggestions assumes proper storage conditions of the aging wines. When a number of years is mentioned, that is years from the vintage date of the wine.

 
 

There are many wines made from grape varieties not listed here. These are the most widely produced and the most likely types to benefit from cellaring. The best approach is to buy multiple bottles of wines you wish to age. When you reach the most likely age of drinkability, try a bottle. Depending on the results, either drink the other bottles or set a date in the future to try the next bottle. This approach will train you how wines develop and soon you will be able to judge for yourself how much longer a wine may need.

 
 
Red Wines
Beaujolais Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape which usually produces easy drinking, low tannin, fruity wines.

Up to $12

These light fruity wines are at their best when served quite young.

$12 to $25

The Cru Beaujolais (from individual villages) fall into this category. They tend to be at their best 3-5 years old.
Bordeaux Red (Medoc) These wines are made predominantly from Cabernet Sauvignon and have the same aging profile.

Up to $12

Drink in the short term. Hold for a few months or even a year but these are usually ready to drink when you get them.

$12 to $25

Accessible when they are purchased but these wines should improve a few years (5-6 years from the vintage date).

$25 and up

These wines are likely to improve with age. Depending on the wine, look for 7-15 years of improvement. A few special wines will age for decades.
Cabernet Sauvignon

Up to $12

Drink in the short term. Hold for a few months or even a year but these are usually ready to drink when you get them.

$12 to $25

Accessible when they are purchased but these wines may improve a few years (5-6 years from the vintage date).

$25 and up

These wines are likely to improve with age. Depending on the wine, look for 7-15 years of improvement. A few special wines will age much longer.
Merlot Merlot is a close cousin of Cabernet Sauvingon. It has a similar aging profile but matures more quickly.

Up to $12

Drink in the short term. Hold for a few months or even a year but these are usually ready to drink when you get them.

$12 to $25

Accessible when they are purchased but these wines may improve a few years (3-4 years from the vintage date).

$25 and up

These wines are likely to improve with age. Depending on the wine, look for 5-12 years of improvement. A few special wines will age much longer.
Pinot Noir Pinot Noir loses much of its fruitiness as it ages and gains complexity. Not everyone appreciates this.
It may also go through 'dumb' phases where the aromas and flavors seem to disappear for months.

Up to $15

Drink short term. A year or less is reasonable.

$15 to $25

Accessible at purchase but will age and gain complexity with 2-4 years of age.

$25 and up

These are usually bigger wines that can benefit from age. 5-8 years is reasonable depending on the wine. Some special wines (Grand Cru Burgundies) may age for many years.
Syrah/Shiraz Most newer wine drinkers know Shiraz as an Australian product. It is usually made there in a soft fruity style although exceptions do exist. More experienced drinkers know that the grape has long been used in the Rhone Valley of France where it is usually made in a bigger style and blended with other grapes.

Up to $12

Easy drinking wines that should be consumed within 1 - 2 years of purchase. No benefit from aging.

$12 to $25

More robust wines should benefit from 3-5 years of age.

$25 and up

Special wines like the Grange, from Australia can benefit from a decade or more of age.
White Wines
Chardonnay Most Chardonnay is designed for consumption while the wine is young. Special vineyards can produce special wines with aging potential.

Up to $12

Drink up. No benefit from cellaring these wines.

$12 to $25

Drink at 3-5 years from the vintage date.

$25 and up

These wines can age for 4-8 years depending on the wine. Be aware that Chardonnays that have fully gone through malolactic fermentation have greatly reduced life spans. Malolactic Chardonnays have a smell of butter and unusually golden color when young.
Chenin Blanc Chenin Blanc has high acids and can produce wines that age well. They can, but usually do not. Most Chenin Blancs that you will find are not designed to age over long periods.

Up to $12

Drink within 3 years from the vintage date.

$12 to $25

Drink within 5 years of the vintage date.
Riesling Most people discover Riesling in the lower to middle grade of German wines. It can be one of the best white wine grapes for aging but only the best (and most expensive) Rieslings age well.

Up to $12

Probably a German Qualitatswein or warm weather California Riesling. Drink it within 3-4 years of vintage.

$12 to $25

Better German wines or moderate wines of Alsace. Drink young or age to 6-8 years.

$25 and up

The best sweet German wines or dry Rieslings like Trimbach 'Clos Ste. Hune' can age and develop for decades if stored properly.
Vouvray Most Vouvray is best consumed when it is young and fruity. There are special bottlings that can age for several years but they are not commonly found. Consume Vouvray when young as a general rule.
 
 

This information is provided as guidance and not gospel. There are many factors that can affect how a wine ages and we cannot explore all of them here. This information is here to help you but it is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.