PRO-TIP / how to determine a wine’s aging potential
Leah Jorgensen Jean
The aging potential of a wine is influenced by several factors, and assessing it involves considering various aspects of the wine’s characteristics. Here are some key factors to consider when determining a wine’s aging potential:
- Tannins: Tannins are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that contribute to a wine’s structure and aging potential. Wines with higher tannin levels tend to age well, as tannins help preserve the wine’s structure over time. Red wines generally have more tannins than white wines.
- Acidity: Wines with higher acidity levels often have better aging potential. Acidity acts as a natural preservative and helps maintain the freshness and balance of a wine as it ages.
- Sugar and Alcohol Levels: High levels of residual sugar or alcohol can affect a wine’s aging potential. Wines with higher sugar or alcohol content tend to have shorter aging potential and may not develop desirable flavors and complexities over time.
- Grape Variety: Certain grape varieties have a natural predisposition for aging. For example, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, and Syrah tend to age well, while wines made from more delicate grapes like Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio may have a shorter aging potential.
- Winemaking Techniques: The winemaking process can significantly impact a wine’s aging potential. Factors such as the use of oak aging, fermentation techniques, and the level of extraction during maceration can influence how the wine evolves over time. Stabilizing a wine to prevent microbial infection and other instabilities will help a wine reach its aging potential.
- Vintage: Vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. Not all vintages are created equal, and the quality of the vintage can affect a wine’s aging potential. Excellent growing seasons with optimal weather conditions often result in wines that can age gracefully.
- Expert Opinions: Consulting experts, such as sommeliers, wine merchants, and especially winemakers, can provide valuable insights into a wine’s aging potential. They have extensive experience tasting and assessing wines, and their opinions can be helpful in gauging how a specific wine might evolve over time. Get to know your winemakers! They can speak directly to their wine’s aging potential based on their process; some winemakers are making wines specifically for aging potential while others craft wines that are ready to drink and enjoy now!
It’s important to note that aging potential is not an exact science, and individual bottles of the same wine can exhibit variation due to storage conditions and other factors. When you see generalized comments or notes about a particular wine’s aging potential, keep in mind varietal and winemaking techniques are always the greatest indicators for how well a particular wine can age. Most wines out in the market will peak at just five years post bottling date. Be savvy about the wines you buy and how to categorize and cellar them; for the average ready-to-drink wines you bring home, keep them in storage where you’re likely to grab them and enjoy them right now. Properly cellar the wines you know will age 5 to 10 years, and well beyond. Then, you don’t have to worry about wasting wine or not getting through it all quickly enough. You will have an organized system to help you enjoy all of your wines!
Note: We have a downloadable PDF handout listing the top wine varietals for aging red and white wines. We will make that available to people who sign up for our MasterClass on Cabernet Franc and investing in wine. Stay tuned for access to the class. Sign up for our Collector’s List below if you are interested in getting your hands on extremely limited bottles of our wines that will age for many years to come.