To pour or to store, that is (generally) the question-- at least if you’re as into wine as we are. Knowing when, which bottles, and how to properly cellar wine is one of the most commonly received questions by sommeliers, retailers, and wine professionals everywhere. Though the topic may seem complex, knowing when to lay down a bottle of wine is actually quite simple. Look no further than these five indicators below to know if your bottle will benefit from some age; if one or more boxes is checked, the answer is could be yes!
(*Note: Only about 1% of wine is made to be aged, so don’t get to throwing all of your bottles into the cellar just yet! Don’t worry-- we’ll explain below.)
Acidity in wine is one of the most important factors to consider, when it comes to aging wine. Not only does acidity keep a wine fresh and vibrant, it also fights against oxidation, which naturally occurs in wine as it breaks down over time. Wines with low acidity will tend to dull out much faster, making them generally less ‘cellarable’ in the game of aging.
High Sugar Content
Just as acidity acts as a natural preservative of wine, residual sugar has a similar effect. Certain dessert wines, such as Sauternes, Tokaji, and late-harvest Rieslings have been known to age for decades on end. Tasting an aged dessert wine is one of the rarest, yet most enjoyable wine-drinking situations; we highly recommend jumping on the opportunity, should it arise!
Highly tannic wines, which can be difficult to drink in their youth, are absolutely phenomenal after given the time to open up. Although these wines require some patience, highly tannic varieties (think Syrah, Nebbiolo, and Cabernet Sauvignon) age gorgeously, thanks to the softening of these tannins via the formation of long, molecular chains, which develop over time.
Fortified wines, think Port, Sherry, and other wines created via the addition of distilled spirit, tend to clock in between 15% and 20% ABV, which significantly aids in the aging process. These wines’ high alcohol content have been known to allow for aging of up to and over 100 years-- that’s right, a 100+ year old wine is indeed possible to drink, provided that the vinification and aging processes were well executed!
As always, buying from a reliable producer generally guarantees a solid consumption experience, whether done in a wine’s youth or after a bit of aging. When searching for cellar additions, look to reputable producers from various global regions, as well as great vintages from said vignerons.
It’s important to note that 99% of wines produced are made for pretty much immediate consumption. In addition, nearly all wines under $30 are meant to be consumed within the next year or two-- not to say that wines of quality can’t be found in this price point; they are just generally not made to withstand the test of time. It’s also extremely important to ensure that when you do indeed decide to age wine, that the bottles are kept in ‘cellar worthy’ condition, which is exactly what it sounds like: dark, humid, and between (approximately) 50 and 55 degrees fahrenheit. Cheers!