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Do wines get better with age?

Article written by Jack Priestley.

That common phrase – to age like a fine wine. How much truth is there in it? Do all wines get better with age?

First of all, what does it mean for a wine to age and why might we do it? To age wine refers to storing a bottle for an extended period of time after it has been released. The hope is that over the years it will evolve, both in terms of the flavour profile (developing more interesting and diverse flavours) but also improve texturally on the palate. Some wines can appear a bit tough or tightly wound in their youth, and a bit of time in bottle helps them to relax and expand.

Wines that are are characteristically high in acidity or tannins (or both) have the best ageing potential. Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling are two of the great examples here. Acidity and tannin preserve the wine, providing a frame if you like, so that even as these elements diminish over time, great older wines should still have some freshness and body to gracefully carry all the intriguing flavours that develop.

Wines that have the capacity to age will often have a suggested ‘drinking window.’ This is essentially when wine critics, producers or wine people believe a wine will be best enjoyed. It’s important to mention that a lot of this is down to personal preference, however history has shown us at what age certain wines from different regions and grape varieties tend to show their best personality.

Most wines that have been matured in oak barrels throughout production, tend to show best, at least a couple of years after they have been bottled. This goes for both whites and reds. That time allows the oak to sink into the fruit, and all the flavours and components (think acids, tannins, sugars) of the wine to meld together in greater harmony.

I’d love to give you some hard and fast rules, but truth is, that a lot is down to the individual producer. Wine can be made in a light-fruity youthful style, or a more complex and intense, full-bodied style, and this is down to decisions made by the producer. Price can be an indicator, but not always.

I must point out that the vast majority of wines produced worldwide are unlikely to get better with any extended time in bottle. Most wines are produced with the intention for early consumption, meaning that they are best drunk whilst they are young, bright and youthful. Young wines typically have vibrant, fruity characteristics, and for the most part this is why we enjoy them so much! So when you purchase your average bottle of Cotes du Rhone or Chardonnay, the wine will keep in pretty good condition and stay reasonably fresh for a couple of years, but I’d steer clear of tucking it away for any longer.

If you pop to your local wine specialist they will often stock a number of older bottles, you’ll save yourself much of the trouble of having to store the wine correctly and avoid the risk of drinking it too soon! However you’ll likely pay a bit of a premium for this so why not ask for a recommendation to experiment yourself!

If you’re really interested is understanding how wines develop, it’s best to get tasting! This could mean buying several bottles of a wine and drinking them over a number of years. Or we often stock a number of older wines that are available to purchase already with some bottle age. Come and chat with us in the shop. We’ll help guide you towards a new loved wine or a favoured producer. We’ll use our knowledge to help guide you towards a wine that will help you discover this fascinating side of wine.

Keep on the wine trail!



Top Recommendations:

Kilikanoon, Clare Valley Riesling, Australia, 2021 – BUY HERE

A powerful but elegant Clare Valley Riesling with beautifully pure aromas of citrus and white flowers. Ageing potential of 20 years plus.

Chateau Andron Blanquet, Saint Estephe, Bordeaux, France, 2016 – BUY HERE

Red Bordeaux is one of the most traditional wine styles to leave to mature in bottle. This is a terrific example with plenty of earthy, dark fruit flavours and fine tannins. It is sure to gain complexity and a beautiful fine structure with age.  A handy rule of thumb is that much good Bordeaux is in it’s prime drinking window between 5-15 years after bottling. But do note that the quality level of red Bordeaux varies significantly, from some of the world’s greatest wines to simple table wine.