Cheers! Wine Consultants

Most wine is already aged for you at the winery

By Dan & Krista Stockman


   One of the questions we’re asked over and over is, “How long should I age my wine?”

   And our answer is almost always, “You shouldn’t.”

   The reason we say that is because the vast majority of wines are put on the shelf when they’re ready to drink, and should generally be consumed within six months. In other words, the winery has already done the aging for you.

   The six-month rule, of course, can be stretched a bit – or a lot – if you have a temperature-controlled wine cellar, but should be strictly followed if you’re keeping your wines, say, on your kitchen counter.

   But that’s only for the vast majority of wines. There are, of course, some wines that will not only age for years, but will improve with age. And there are some wines that require aging.

   The good news for most of us is that you don’t need to worry about those, because you’re probably not even going to see them on the shelf. If you see them at all, they will be much more expensive – usually expensive enough that they will warrant some research, which would tell you whether they need to be aged.

   For example Dom Perignon Champagne can be found on the shelves, but at about $170 a bottle, it’s probably not an impulse purchase. A little research will tell you, however, that the current vintage is the 2004 – the winery has already aged it a decade for you, and it’s now ready to drink. Of course, if you want to age it, you can – that same research will tell you it will continue to improve (assuming you store it properly) until about 2026.

   So why would you want to age a wine? Like we said above, some wines require it – they are very high in tannins and acidity (which is what helps them age), and it takes a while for those tannins and acids to settle down and smooth out. Drinking a wine that’s too young can feel like a punch to the jaw. But the same things that make it harsh and unforgiving when it’s young help it age gracefully – and that’s the benefit of a perfectly matured wine: Age brings a smoothness, a grace, and complexity that you just cannot get any other way.

   It’s one of those things that’s hard to describe, but once you taste it, you understand: a perfectly aged wine is like the difference between an oil painting and a Monet. You may not be able to explain what makes the Monet so moving, but you know it when you see it. When you taste a wine that’s perfectly aged, you understand what all the fuss is about.

   So if most of the wines on the shelves are already aged, and most wine consumers will not ever have to worry about aging a wine, then why does this matter?

   Because some times you do want to age a wine – you want to choose a special bottle to open on a special occasion far in the future. For example, when our children were born, we bought bottles from their birth year that will age at least two decades that they can have when they graduate from Harvard or whatever. We also have several bottles from the year we were married that we’ll open on special anniversaries.

   Most of the wines we’re aging were less than $50 a bottle, but we still did a lot of research and chose them carefully. In Part 2 of this column next week, we’ll tell you about the process.