Aging wine – or storing it for a few years before opening it – allows the flavor to develop more fully. In doing so, you can experience a whole new set of tastes, called tertiary notes. Many collectors age their fine wines, either to increase the value of the bottle or to simply enhance its flavor.
Let’s take a closer look at how to age wine, and which varietals are suitable for this practice.
Wine is enjoyable to drink right away, but certain kinds may benefit from aging in the bottle. As previously mentioned, aging wine can often lead to more developed flavors. When wine ages, the phenolic compounds – tannins, for example – begin to lose their strength and start combining. Then, the surface area of these compounds shrinks, which can make the wine taste a bit smoother.
As your bottle ages, you’ll notice that its color will begin to change. White wine may range from a light-yellow hue in the beginning to a deeper amber shade towards the later stages of the aging process. Meanwhile, red wine will typically take on a darker brown color.
Each varietal of wine ages differently; therefore, it’s important to know which traits to look for when picking a wine to store. For example, acidic wines will last longer, as they lose acidity during the aging process.
When choosing a wine you’d like to cellar, be on the lookout for the following characteristics as well:
When it comes to aging, red wines are quite flexible. Certain types can be aged for just three to five years, while others can remain in a cellar for decades. Additionally, some bottles have already been aged before you even find them in stores. A few terms to keep an eye out for that indicate an aged wine are Reserva, Riserva, and Gran Reserva. Similar to red wines, white varietals can age from one year to several decades. Keep in mind that bottles with higher acidities and sugar levels can be aged longer.
Quality sparkling wines, made traditionally through méthode champenoise, should only be aged for one to two years. Meanwhile, fortified wines have an extra “layer” of protection from aging due to their high alcohol content. Many varietals, including Madeira and Sauternes, can last several decades.
There are a few lasting tips to keep in mind before you start cellaring your wine. Most bottles should be stored between 55 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, with around 75 percent humidity. The easiest way to ensure your wines are stored properly is by investing in a climate-controlled wine cellar or refrigerator.