Is ageing wine always a good idea?

Is ageing wine always a good idea?

10th Jul 2021

Most people think of ageing the wine as a positive thing. We often hear "wine gets better with age" but is that always true? Let's discuss that.

Why do we age a bottle? Some people keep their wine bottles in a cellar so that the wine can develop new aromas and to allow the tannins to round off. This means that after a few years, the wine is going to have what we would call "silky tannins" and new delicious aromas. This is only possible if the wine can "breathe" - if the liquid is in contact with some oxygen. It is important to note that it's only possible with cork (this material allows a tiny bit - just the necessary amount - of oxygen to be in contact with the wine). And it only works if the wine is in contact with the cork (the bottle has to be laying down) otherwise the cork dries and shrinks and this can ruin your wine. what about plastic or metal instead of cork? They usually don't allow the wine to breathe and then to benefit from the ageing. So, firstly, if you think of ageing a bottle, it has to have a traditional cork. 

Another thing you need to look at is the type of wine. Dry whites and rose are not really meant to age. They are wines made to be crisp and refreshing. They are better in their youth. The two types you can age are sweet whites and reds. The sugar in the whites will allow the wine to evolve and get better with age (a good example is sauternes wines that develop delicious jam and nutty notes after a few years). For the reds, be careful, you can not age any reds. Usually, you're going to want to age tannic wines. Some grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon are more tannic than others. Another factor that can add tannins to a wine is the wine making and if the wine has done a fermentation in oak barrels (the tannins from the wood will add to the tannins of the wine). Most Grands Crus are made to age and usually spend time in oak barrels (Bordeaux and Burgundy are great examples).

So to answer our question, not all wines are meant to wait in a cellar. Some wines, such as rose, dry whites and light reds are best enjoyed young. But some sweet whites and tannic red will get better when aged (remember to check the cork, the variety and research the winemaking employed). And don't forget to keep your wines laying down, with minimal light, in a fresh and humid environment that won't experience big changes of temperature. And most importantly, when you finally open a bottle that has been waiting in a cellar for years, enjoy every drop.