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Wine Wisdoms #24: Predicting Ageability

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 at 1:55:54 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies


A great majority of wine is made to be enjoyed right away and does not need to be aged. However, wines of supreme quality can evolve with time in the bottle, offering a rewarding experience to the patient cellar keeper. The two major factors that determine the ageability of wine are its tannins and its sugar content. Tannic reds and dessert wines can typically age longer than whites (though there are exceptions), because these qualities preserve the wine over time, allowing further development without spoilage.

A wine’s ageabilty can vary greatly depending on the producer, style, and quality but the following is a handy starting point:

15-20+ Years: French Cabernet-based wines and tannic Italian reds like: Bordeaux, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino
10-15+ Years: Sauternes, Late-Harvest Riesling, Tokaj, Vintage Port
5-10+ Years: New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti Classico, Rhone Valley, Grenache, Rioja
3-5+ Years: Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Zinfandel, Napa Valley Merlot
1-3 + Years: Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, White Burgundy, Gewurztraminer
Will Not Age: Beaujolais, Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc

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7 Responses to “Wine Wisdoms #24: Predicting Ageability”

  1. 1 Robert Howells said:

    I agree with most of what is said except the part about Gamay not aging. The beeaojolais Crus (Moulin a vent, Morgon etc) in a great vintage will age well 5-15 years maybe longer.

  2. 2 thomas campion said:

    You didn’t mention MERLOTs or many other popular reds!!…Tom..

  3. @Robert Agreed, it’s impossible to cover every designation and region and there are exceptions for sure. My goal was to simplify it as much as possible so people have a yardstick to use.

    @thomas campion I placed Merlot in the 3-5 year category, meaning that this refers to new world Merlot, like Napa Valley. What are the reds that are missing that you’d like to see?

  4. 4 thomas campion said:

    I am down to my last 2 bottle of Mosti Mondiale,an Italian Merlot, bottle 11/22/03. I have had great praise from friends when I serve it. Amarones truely mature into great wines when left to bottle age for 5 or more years. Sherry, though not a red, enjoys a few years on the shelf to mellow. When first bottled sherrys tend to have a undesireable bite…Tom..

  5. 5 Daniel Fogarty said:

    @Erika…answering for Thomas……Tempranillos, New World Syrah/Shiraz, Pinotage, Malbec

  6. @Daniel Tempranillo falls in the Rioja category which is listed at 5-10 years but it does depend on quality, as with anything else. New world Syrah/Shiraz might age for a few years, 3-5 I would say but probably not longer, probably the same for Pinotage and maybe a bit longer for Malbec if it’s high-end.

  7. [...] in for disappointment.  When your asking about the producer and the vintage, also ask about expected ageability, and if you can afford to, buy more than one bottle.  Open the first bottle up when it’s [...]

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