What is a wine for aging?
“The older the wine, the better” is one of the most widespread and popular myths among wine enthusiasts and those who are curious. While it is true that some great wines do develop strong qualities over time, unfortunately this doesn’t apply in all cases because not all wines can be kept for a long time and, instead of improving, they might even decrease in quality before they are opened. Wines that age well in the bottle over time are known as wines for aging. What are they like?
We can explain.
What is a wine for aging?
A wine for aging is one that has the characteristics and qualities needed for it to continue aging in the bottle. We are used to thinking that all wines can be kept, but that isn’t necessarily the case and it doesn’t mean they are better or worse, it simply determines when they are at their best for enjoying. There are some great quality young wines, but that have not been made to be kept for a long time, so that bottle of wine that you like so much and want to keep for a special occasion, may not be suitable for keeping for a long time.
What characteristics should a wine for aging have?
There are certain elements that determine whether a wine is suitable for keeping or not, like its pH (which is a measure of acidity or alkalinity). Acidity is very important in a wine because it provides freshness and stability, influences its aroma and colour and determines its longevity, as well as restricting the action of bacteria that could damage the wine. The higher the acidity, the better it will age and develop in bottle.
The alcohol content, polyphenols, even the type of grapes used to make the wine or the type of closure used on each bottle also influence the longevity of a wine. Obviously some of these components are not easy to identify from home with the bottle opened, so here are some clues on how to identify wines for aging.
A wine for aging is, first and foremost, a high quality wine. It is made with a selection of grapes in excellent condition. The choice of grape variety has a big part to play because some varieties, like Syrah wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo wines stand the test of time better.
Despite what you might expect, there are also some great white wines that can be left to age. Many of them are made with varieties like Chardonnay, Riesling and Viura (Macabeo).
Another way to identify a wine for aging is the aging process it has already gone through. Young wines, those that have not been aged in barrels, are made with immediate consumption in mind, so they are not usually good candidates for leaving to age. However, wines that age in a barrel are the perfect candidates for leaving to develop in the bottle. Ribera del Duero wines and Rioja wines include some great Reserva wines and Gran Reserva wines that age into the best version of themselves after a few years of patience.
Another way to identify a wine for aging is its origin. We have mentioned that acidity is an essential factor for a wine to develop well over time. Grapes grown in cold climates ripen slowly and generate less sugar but a high degree of acidity, so wines from cold climates are likely to age better.
How long can a wine be stored?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions and is not easy to answer. Winemakers, sommeliers and wine experts make predictions that may or may not come true, because this depends on many factors.
We often forget that wine is a living thing that is constantly evolving and factors like light, sudden changes in temperature or humidity can interfere with it developing well. Even two bottles of the same wine from the same vintage might age differently to each other. Wines are like people. So, even if you buy a wine that promises longevity, if you don’t keep it in the right conditions, its life will be shortened rather than extended.
Fortunately, many winemakers already do this work for us by aging their wines in their cellars in the right conditions and, when they are at their best for drinking, they release them for sale, saving us the wait at home.
Anyway, if you have a very special bottle, one that was really hard to find and that you want to keep for a special occasion, read over all the tips we have given you here and take a look at our article on “How to store wine at home” where we give you more information to help you successfully extend the life of your favourite wines.