This post is for those who are interested in finding the right wines to age for long term wine storage. (i.e. greater than 3 years). In order to discuss this, we need to know what types of wines will age. There are a few things to look for when considering aging a bottle.
This is blog post 2 in a series on how to begin thinking about curating a cellar. The first post in the series can be found here.
The Right Wines To Age: What To Look For
Ever wonder what the secret is to finding the right wines to age perfectly? Not all wines can be aged. You want to look for high quality wines with high acidity, high tannins (in reds), lower alcohol levels (below 13.5%). Here’s a look at the top whites, reds and sparkling wines to consider aging long term, as well as a note on how vintages vary.
Acid & Tannin
The acidity (red and white wines) and tannins (red wines only) provide a structure for the wine to age. Almost like a backbone. You also want a complex wine. Wines lose acidity and fruit as they age, so if all it has is fruit… It’s going to be lackluster in a decade or so. However, if it’s a Nebbiolo, with bright red juicy berries at the forefront, and then notes of leather, earth, mushroom, and tar at the backend with tannins that grip so tough it seems like you never swallowed… You can bet that’s going to be quite the wine in a decade or two.
You want a lower alcohol wine because in non-fortified wines, alcohol can decide to have a mind of it’s own. While fortified wines can age beautifully, wines that fall between 13.5%-15.5% alcohol seem to be a bit more of a wild card. That’s not to say you can’t age any wine in that alcohol range. It does, however, mean that it comes with some risks. If you are aging a higher alcohol wine I strongly recommend you keep it in a temperature controlled environment like a wine fridge.
When it comes to white wine varieties that age well, Chardonnay is usually at the top of the list. Look for producers that offer wines with good balance of acidity & fruit flavors. For example, producers from areas of Burgundy (such as Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Chardonnay from Mâconnaise). Or, opt for something oaked from cooler areas of Napa (think Diamond Mountain District, or Carneros) – that will help bring out aromas & body over time. Also consider Penfolds in Australia.
Higher acid wines like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are also wonderful wines to age. Look at South Africa or Savennières for Chenin Blanc. Germany and Alsace for Riesling. Bordeaux or California for Sauvignon Blanc.
Since bracing acidity helps a wine stand up against oxidation it gives these wines some fantastic aging potential. Riesling, for one, also can have some residual sugar which can aid in aging the wine for 10+ years! Look for producers like Dr Thanisch and Georg Albrecht.
Reds tend to have higher tannins which makes them great candidates for aging. Even better if there’s enough acidity in the mix too! Some iconic examples are Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux and California (Jordan, Opus One, Heitz Cellars, Staglin, Elyse, Beringer Private Reserve).
Or try something richer like Malbec from Mendoza (Quena Wines has several good ones). Read this Guide To Investing in Malbec by Wine Enthusiast for some great ideas!
Negroamaro from Italy, Xinmavro from high quality producers in Greece, are two rarer finds for aged wines. This is a great read on aging Greek Wines.
Pinot Noir has plenty of complexity so you can expect lots of fun notes emerging as it ages into maturity. Cardwell Hill Cellars offers some good single vineyard options. On the other hand, Syrah/Shiraz should be selected carefully due to its bold tannins and sweet characteristics. Consider Spinifex Wines in Barossa Valley.
No list would be complete without mentioning some sparkling favorites! Champagne tends to have very high acidity making it one of the best sparkling wines for aging. The best options to age are Vintage Champagnes. They aren’t made every year – only in the best years. Look to the best producers for this – like Pol Roger (the Churchill label especially), Billecart-Salmon, Philipponnat etc.
The Right Wines to Age: Vintages
Finally, we must mention vintages when discussing ageing wines. Each year weather conditions play an important role in grape quality & therefore should feature prominently in your decision-making process. Knowing what type of vintage fits each region best will help guide your selections even further!
Here is the Wine Spectator Wallet Chart PDF if you’d like to take a peak!
And there you have it! A few ideas on wines you can look into for your wine cellar designed to age gracefully over time! Enjoy responsibly!