Your Guide to Aged Wines

 


The majority of wines on the market these days are meant to be consumed within one to five years. This is a natural law. Producing wines that can sit in the cellar for decades is time-consuming and expensive. There is a time and place for wines that age and adventurous palates are required. Most all age-worthy wines will have high acid, tannin, and sugar levels to start. Acid and tannin help slow oxidation, and some extra sugar will assist in the prevention of re-fermentation in bottle. Re-fermentation in barrel is no problem, but when it happens in bottle, you could end up with a cloudy, fizzy, unenviably stinky product. How will you avoid embarrassment over a bum bottle of supposedly age-worthy Chardonnay at Thanksgiving 2036? This article is how. The web’s top wine writers are here to help you build an age-worthy wine collection, and their recommendations may surprise you!

What’s the oldest bottle in your collection? Do you have a favorite old bottle story? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
Bandol

My first child was born in 2015, so I plan on burying some 2015s to open with her 20 years from now. Among those 2015s will be a few wines from Bandol, an appellation in France's Provence region. These wines (based on the gritty Mourvedre grape) are usually densely tannic in their youth, but with years of age they turn into beautiful, floral, meaty, spicy wines. Producers like Domaine Tempier, Chateau de Pibarnon and La Bastide Blanche make exceptional wines that can easily improve for 15+ years. Whenever I plan to bury a wine for the long haul, I like to buy at least three bottles of the same wine. I like to drink one in the first couple of years to get a baseline understanding of the wine and how it may age. (Also, it can be incredibly frustrating to cellar one bottle of special wine for a long time only to pop it and find it suffering from cork taint.) Keep this in mind: if you're cellaring a wine for more than a few years, make sure you have adequate storage conditions. Stick the bottles in one of those small wine fridges or, if you have the space, a dark, cold, undisturbed corner of the basement can suffice.

Isaac James Baker
Reading, Writing & Wine


Sauternes

For me sweet wines are most enjoyable when they have sufficient acidity to balance the sweetness. The finish must be clean rather than cloying. The wines of Sauternes fit this description perfectly. Sauternes is an AOC comprised of five small villages within the Graves AOC south of the city of Bordeaux. It has the distinction of producing only sweet, white wines that are not fortified. The ability to produce such wines relies on the presence of a fungus called botrytis cinerea, or more tactfully noble rot, which develops on grapes with the proper combination of fog and dry conditions. Noble rot causes individual grape berries to become desiccated thereby concentrating sugars, flavor and acidity. Multiple picking passes through the vineyards are required to harvest individual berries at just the proper time. As you might expect the yield is very small from these Sémillion, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle vineyards. Once in the cellar gentle pressing is followed by fermentation and aging in a high proportion of new oak. In their youth Sauternes wines deliver generous aromas and flavors of apricot, pineapple, minerals and spice. The wine is round and sweet with significant acidity. The finish seems to last forever. As they age their dense yellow-golden color turns to amber and then chestnut. The flavors develop to dried apricot, caramelized sugar and nuts. I love them when they’re bright and young, but they are even more complex and interesting over time. One of my favorite producers is Château Guiraud, a Premier Cru located in the village also called Sauternes. The 2011 vintage would be an excellent choice.

Nancy Brazil
Pull that Cork


2014 Ara Riesling

Widely known by wine connoisseurs around the globe, wines that contain high alcohol and high acidity (which act as preservatives) have the best chance of aging with grace - as long as they are stored properly. When seeking out a wine that I want to cellar for some 15 plus years, I not only look for the fundamental higher acidity and alcohol, but I also examine the wine's concentration of fruit, solid structure, and its captivating complex characteristics. Most importantly, I turn to producers who have reputations for creating superb wines that have the potential to age, and I believe one of the most age-worthy varietals on the planet is Riesling. More than a handful of Oregon producers are making Rieslings that are out-of-this-world phenomenal, and one of those producers is Brooks Wines - where remarkably extraordinary Riesling has found its home in the Eola-Amity Hills. Characterized by higher altitudes and an ocean breeze that surreptitiously creeps its way through the famed Van Duzer Corridor (the lowest point in Oregon's Coastal Range), Eola-Amity Hills AVA is a sub region of the Willamette Valley, where a tumultuous geological history created a complex series of soil with varied influence. Brooks Wines has an intensely rich and gripping story, featured in the documentary American Wine Story, and their Rieslings perfectly mimic the Brooks gripping and intense history. Their 2014 Ara Riesling thunders lush and fierce aromas of earth, honeycrisp apples, lemon zest and sweet nectarines highlighted by a blend of ground white pepper and Mediterranean spice - blanketed by the much-desired (in a Riesling) petrol character. With a sense of place exuding from the aromatics, a seamless wave of fruit fills the mouth along with refreshing minerality and vibrant mid-palate acidity - giving it perpetual balance and a long, expressive finish. Without a doubt, the 2014 Ara Riesling could easily age with grace for 15 or more years - if I could just resist pulling that cork. More Brooks Winery wines are featured on Julia's website, therealwinejulia.com.

Julia Crowley
The Real Wine Julia


Champagne

Of all the Snooth topics we have been asked to write about, I have struggled with this one the most since there really are a multitude of great responses and I went back and forth several times. In the end, I decided to stay true to my roots: Champagne. Despite what many people in Champagne will have you believe, champagne can get better with age. The Champenois (the denizens of the famous region) are known to quip that every bottle of champagne is ready to drink upon release and that there is no reason to wait as it will only get worse in the bottle. To that, I say "poppycock." While not every champagne will stand the test of time (you want to drink most non-vintage champagnes in a year or two), vintage champagnes (those with a vintage year on the label), since they are theoretically only made in the best years, can often last at least a decade past their vintage year. Many Champagne houses also produce a tête de cuvée or top blend, which are only made in the very best years (which, with climate change is occurring at least every other year it seems). Some of the names are quite familiar, perhaps: Dom Pérignon (Moët et Chandon), La Grande Dame (Veuve Clicquot), Belle Epoque (Perrier-Jouët), Celebris (Gosset), Palmes d'Or (Nicolas Feuillatte), Nec-Plus-Ultra (N.P.U.) (Bruno Paillard), and the over-hyped Cristal (Rogederer), to name just a few. If you can swallow the price tag of these wines, which range from $125 to $250, you really should not pop them until at least a decade has passed since their vintage. In the best years, they can easily last twice that long. If you are really patient, nothing is better, in my mind, than a 25-30 year old prestige champagne. Most of the fruity aspects of the wine will be gone, leaving tons of baked bread, caramel, and sherries notes. It is a bit of an acquired taste for sure, but once you acquire it? Look out. 1996 was one of the best years ever in Champagne, and a few (but only a few) can still be found in the market. Other vintages to consider: 2002, 2004, 2008, and when they finally hit the shelves (they are not out yet) 2012.

Jeffrey M. Kralik
The Drunken Cyclist


Trust Your Choice

Wines that are age worthy is a two part question. One: how long or what is the capacity for a wine to age. Two: what is considering a proper amount of aging? I remember I was buying a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1990 and my soon to be former manager of the company I worked for said something to the affect "how nice... too young to drink. I just have to hang on for another 10 years”. All of this of course not to be interpreted as nice.... but after all he was a going to be a former manager. Truth though was this wine and vintage was perfectly drinkable then and much less now. Yes even Bordeaux has a limit. I don't like to age for more than a generation with few exceptions. For me what I think are nicely aged are a reasonable term. I like Napa Valley valley floor Cabernets to be aged for between 3-10 years. More than 10 is possible but I look to enjoy my wines at their optimum. Too many people let their wines age for too long as and are on the misguided view of older is better. I like all of my Napa Valley mountain fruit Cabernet wines like Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder and I like to wait for at least 5 years from release. I want optimum wines and a little aging goes a long way to soften tannins and let the fruit become wine--of course it is wine but in that more mystical sense. It is the alchemy that takes place with a bit of patience and good cellaring conditions. I like to take receipt directly of wine as I want no chance of transporting wines during the warm season. I live in temperate San Francisco where temperature is rather even daytime to night nearly year round.  

I like my non-Burgundies to be my cellar for a minimum of three-four years from release – that is not a lot ageing especially if it is a Grand Cru. I don’t think it is a question of tannins but time in bottle. I also don’t want this delicate wine go age too much and lose colour—there are outstanding Burgundies that can age for longer than 7 years but for optimum experience want the best wine at the right right. You can view a vintage chart but I do think there is a hard science behind it. Simple you would have to keep track when it was created so you didn’t age a particular wine in perpetuity. You will not find a 30-year old wine in my cellar unless it is vintage Port or a Madeira and I do have one bottle of Dom Periginon vinatge 1990. I believe I should have opened up a bit of tie ago for it to be optimum—can it still be enjoyed today—I think the answer is yes.

Riesling for some can age extraordinarily long—up to 30 years but this depends on sweetness levels. The sweeter it is the longer and the drier the shorter. I have heard of people drinking old 100-year-old Riesling but I think that is folkloric and not based in reality. I think that these anecdotes keep people thinking all wines are ageable for very long periods of time. Wine does not and should not last forever but it should be designed to do what it was meant to do and that is age for a shorter period of time but not forever. I have been guilty because there was a memory in the experience of tasting a particular wine with great friends or that I loved the bottle or vintage. Remember vintage changes year over year. I had two bottles of a very wonderful bottle of 1998 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon I thought it was amazing in 2005 but the other less-than-optimized in 2015. I challenge myself to open up wines. Yes, there is more of that or another great wine if you open a special bottle. Trust your choice—and if there is only one thing you remember—think of shooting for an optimized experience—not a perfect one and don’t hold on to any wine forever. In the end it is up to you when to open that great bottle of wine.


James Melendez
James the Wine Guy

Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG

A consumer seeking a wine to tuck away in their cellar for an extended period of time should look to [central] Italy's Umbria region. Within the town of Montefalco grows the deep ruby-red colored prized jewel of the land known as Sagrantino. This low-yielding red grape variety is thick skinned and late ripening, producing well-structured, burly wines that demand a good deal of patience. Sagrantino is grown almost exclusively in Umbria and ranks as one of the most tannic grape varieties out there. But gum-numbing tannins alone won’t do the trick. Sagrantino also yields rich fruit with good length, rustic appeal, and most notably, great acid balance – which gives wine life and longevity. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG wines require 100% Sagrantino be used and a minimum of 12 months in barrel with at least 36 months of overall aging prior to release. An ideal candidate for cellaring that you can find online for around $50 is Còlpetrone 2006 Gold Montefalco Sagrantino. I just opened a bottle last week. Gold is the producer’s masterwork; produced from estate fruit only in the best vintage years. This is a wine of substance that is meaty and firm, though integrated and balanced. Dry, grainy tannins wrap around a core of [dried] dark berry fruit flavors intermixed with spice, worn leather, tobacco leaf, and hints of black cherry. There’s a solid underpinning of acidity that carries through the expansive, slightly gripping finish. This is a wine that begs for well-marbled cuts of beef or hearty winter fare. With more time in the bottle this wine should further develop character and complexities and reward its owner. Please feel free to share a recommendation or two with us. Thank you!
 
Dezel Quillen
My Vine Spot


2013 Ridge Monte Bello

I’m more of a wine drinker than a wine collector – with one exception – Ridge Monte Bello. I vividly recall the first vintage I purchased. It was the 2008 Monte Bello. I purchased the wine without giving its ageability much thought. Then I discovered what I’ll call the “Monte Bello” rule of thumb. Buy it, but don’t even think about drinking it at least 10 years if you want to maximize your enjoyment of the wine. That’s because Ridge Monte Bello has a remarkable ability to age. The 1971 Ridge Monte Bello, which placed fourth at the original 1976 Judgment of Paris, placed first in the 30 year re-enactment of the landmark tasting in 2006. The 35 year-old was in a class by itself, winning by a large margin. I’ve tasted the 1985, 1992, 1995, 2001, and 2005 in recent years and I can tell you the wines were simply sublime. They’re worth the wait (is it 2018 yet?).

I recently tasted the most current release - the 2013.  It’s crafted from a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Merlot. It’s an opaque ruby color with a beautiful perfume of blackberries, cassis, violets, licorice and subtle toasted oak spice aromas. On the palate it’s impeccably balanced but tight now, exhibiting power and grace with intense blackberry, exotic oak spice flavors with an appealing wet stone minerality with a long focused finish 13.6% abv SRP - $185


Martin Redmond
ENOFYLZ Wine Blog


Collier Falls 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sometimes patience is rewarded. Fine wines built with structure that have a balance of tannin and acid are the primary hallmarks you’re looking for when considering wines to lay down. While the selections are often tasty to drink upon release, waiting them out for a number of years often provides even more delightful results. By and large when people think of age-worthy wines big dollar signs come to mind. And while there are a higher percentage of wines in the upper echelon of pricing that are suited for aging there are values to be had too. One of the secrets of Sonoma County California is the excellent Cabernet that is grown in Dry Creek Valley. This region is better known for Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, with good reason, they crush those varieties. However there are a bit more than a handful of producers bottling world-class, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon from Dry Creek Valley fruit. Most of the wines in that number come from Hillside Vines. Such is the case with the Collier Falls Cabernet Sauvignon with is wonderful one vintage after another. The current release is no exception. This Cabernet was produced entirely from Estate fruit. It was grown on Barry Colliers property in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. The nose is loaded with red fruits as well as bits of toast and vanilla. The substantial palate is studded with spices and continued red fruit flavors. Dried cherry, strawberry and currant are all in evidence. The finish is long and memorable with oodles of earth, more spice and a hint of dark, dusty chocolate. Firm tannins yield with some air. Racy acid keeps things balanced and mouth-watering. This Cabernet is delicious now, particularly if decanted for an hour, but feel free to lay it down. It’ll age gracefully for the next 15-20 years. This wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon loaded with character is a steal. ($45)

Gabe Sasso
Gabe’s View


2004 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs

As a wine consumer, I do not typically purchase age worthy wines. I buy wines to drink now or within the next year to five years. In fact, the oldest wine I have in my small collection is vintage 2004. That wine happens to be a bottle of 2004 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs, a vintage Champagne recommended to me by a former work colleague. It appeared as an offer on a flash site in 2014. My colleague and I each purchased three bottles for about half of its suggested retail price ($100) and shipping was included on six bottles. However, we had to wait impatiently for months until it finally arrived in January 2015. The vineyard sources of this 100% chardonnay Champagne include four crus in La Côte des Blancs: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, Cramant, and Oger. It spent eight years in bottle sur lie before being released. For my birthday dinners in 2015 and 2016, I shared this wine with friends. Both times, it was quite stunning. The reactions of my dinner companions said it all, their faces revealing delightful expressions of glee and giddiness. Simultaneously effervescent and creamy, this beautiful Champagne exhibited a veritable fruit bowl of flavors on the palate - apple, pear, peach, and citrus - with a backbone of delicate brioche. Wine Spectator recommends drinking the 2004 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs through 2025, but I don't think my last bottle will remain beyond my birthday dinner in 2017.

Elizabeth Smith​
Travelling Wine Chick


Mer Soleil Reserve, Chardonnay from the Wagner Family of Wine

Built to last need not mean break the bank. The current release of Mer Soleil Reserve 2014 Chardonnay, tumbles out of the bottle with a day bright, gold color, aromas of honey, apples, vanilla and spice, and boasts a silky texture with flavors of baking spices and pear. Consider this a warning, it will be hard to lay aside. Over the summer I was able to taste this wine from a 2004 magnum with winemaker, Charlie Wagner. The years turned the color of the 100% Chardonnay wine a dark gold. Muted notes of apples and honey were faintly present, reinforced by the still silky texture. In the aged wine, top notes of aroma and flavors belied a savory, black truffle character. Truffled honey flavors were persistent in the finish. The 2004 vintage wine retained a lot of freshness. I tried this wine in the windswept Mer Soleil vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in California’s Monterey County, where nature fosters tasty Chardonnay grapes. The winemakers at the Wagner Family of Wine respect the fruit and “let the wine find itself”. I found it delicious. Best of all, you can easily find this for under $30. A great deal for a wine that proved ageable for 10 years and would be interesting in another few. We tasted the older wines in a magnum format, which Charlie said slows down the aging process. So invest in a magnum and set it aside for a future celebration.

Liza Swift
BrixChicks


Riesling

If ageability was the only criteria for great wine, then Riesling would be considered the greatest grape variety in the world! And so, even though I know that some of my other fellow wine writers may choose Riesling as well, I have to go with a Riesling wine. But instead of a Riesling from Germany that the cool kids can’t get enough of, I’m going with Alsace. This small region in the north-east of France has had a long, turbulent history – it’s a territory where the rule was changed a few times from Germany to France, vice versa, and finally back to France. Although they are now technically French, there are still some wonderful Germanic influences that are evident in their culture, such as crafting stunning white wines - especially Riesling.

But please do not mistake that their wines are similar. Alsace Rieslings have a tendency to have more fruit and body since they receive a large amount of sunlight hours during the growing season, but they still have the marked acidity (some sites less than others) which make German Rieslings so age worthy. Recently, I had the great pleasure of tasting the 2014 Zind-Humbrecht Clos St Urbain “Rangen de Thann” Grand Cru. It is still just a baby, but my goodness, was it devastatingly delicious. It had incredible precision with pristine white peach fruit and an intoxicatingly smoky note that hinted to the volcanic rocks of this legendary property. 2014 was known as a classic vintage that made wines with bright acidity and pure fruit flavors. The Clos St Urbain vineyard is part of the Grand Cru of Rangen de Thann, and certain aspects of this site allow for a longer growing season resulting in more complexity in the finished wine. I still remember the astonishing, long finish on this Riesling with lots of tension and hidden treasures that will only reveal themselves with long term aging. This wine will have no problems evolving for the next 15 - 20 years, and your patience will be rewarded with the experience of tasting liquid gold.


Cathrine Todd
Dame Wine


Château Léoville-Barton from Saint-Julien, Bordeaux

I’m a Francophile at heart. So it should comes as no surprise that when I want an age-worthy wine, I go right back to Bordeaux. Since cost is always a concern, we’ll steer away from First Growths into second growths so we need a consistent, solid player. Enter Château Léoville-Barton from Saint-Julien, Bordeaux.This wine offers blackberry and cassis upfront, secondary notes of mocha, leather and earth. A luxurious, long finish offers final notes of gravel, slate, clay, and wood. Early in life this wine shows massive tannins that require a solid decade to settle into beautiful harmony, entirely worth the wait. Ten years aging, minimum required.

Jim van Bergen
JvB UnCorked


Grand Cru Alsatian Rieslings

When asked what wines are “built to last” my mind goes wild with suggestions. Many wines are built to age fifteen years or more. Imagine a fifteen year old Burgundy, Champagne, Bordeaux, Barolo, Amarone, or Brunello. My heart sings with excitement. However, there is one wine I think above all others that is so special and truly built to last: Alsatian Dry Riesling. I have read that Riesling is one of the most collectible wines among connoisseurs. I had the great pleasure to taste Trimbach Grand Cru Clos Ste Hune from 1976, 1989, and 1990 and Cuvée Frédéric Emile from 1983, 1989, 1998, and 2003. From the first sip, the outstanding age-ability of these Grand Cru Alsatian Rieslings, it was immediately evident why so many connoisseurs collect Riesling. In its youth classic Alsatian Riesling has bright aromas and flavors of stone fruit, citrus, and even spice notes of ginger and crushed stone minerality. As it ages the fruit notes integrate as aromas and flavors of petrol, lanolin, and more pronounced minerality takes center stage. It is a glorious taste to behold. Therefore, my suggestion of a special wine to buy young and age properly for fifteen years or more is definitely Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace.

Michelle Williams
Rockin Red Blog

What’s the oldest bottle in your collection? Do you have a favorite old bottle story? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • 3 bottles of 1964 burgundy pinot noir, tried one and still drinks young and seems like it could go another 50 years. 1984 chardonnay from Monterey which I still have at least 10 bottles of and drinks amazingly young and has at least 5-10 more years. 1974 Zinfandel from Napa that holds up so well and is absolutely amazing with food. The trick is buying multiple bottles of the wine you plan to age so you can taste how it ages along the way.

    Sep 23, 2016 at 11:36 PM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,077

    Snoother-744071 is correct. You have to buy multiple bottles o that you can gauge the aging process. I did this when I bought a case of 1966 Croizet-Bages as a future. Every three or four years I opened a bottle to monitor how the aging was progressing. After twenty years the wine was in decline and barely drinkable.

    Sep 24, 2016 at 10:39 AM


  • Of all the wines in our basement, about 95% are from the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada. Wines from Canada? I can hear you snorting and chortling! Or is that snorkelling and choking? Under our less than perfect cellaring conditions, BC reds are not built to last more than 5-6 years. At that point, they've often developed a cloudy visage and an acerbic lack of wit. Exception: Osoyoos Larose. The 2007 is still tannic. Needs decanting for at least an hour before consuming.

    Sep 24, 2016 at 12:57 PM


  • Snooth User: Dezel Quillen
    Hand of Snooth
    266389 11

    Totally agree with the first two comments - I do this regularly. As for Canadian wines, I would think Riesling offers the best opportunity to develop in the bottle. My wine bud over here says, Ice Wine, but I would have to disagree. My experience with many Canadian examples is they show best young. Thanks for your inputs. Cheers!

    Sep 24, 2016 at 3:22 PM


  • Snooth User: MrWino101
    1501408 88

    If you like the wine...buy it and drink it! Nobody and tell you if you'll like it after years in the bottle, even worse if it will even be drinkable, as zinfandel1 noted. And if you live in wine country like many of us, especially Napa, Sonoma or the bay area, will the bottles in your cellar be broken 5 or 10 years into the aging process by a 6.0 shaker!

    Sep 24, 2016 at 6:23 PM


  • Snooth User: scottfalvo
    2106088 26

    Several years ago my father gave me about a case of old wine he had been holding for years in lets just say suboptimal conditions. Two of the bottles were 1863 Madeira . I planned to use them decoratively as part of a new wine rack I had installed at the house. Unfortunately on the way home the bottles jostled against each other in the box and the shoulder of one bottle was cleanly broken and popped into the bottle. I discovered this when I got it home and decanted about 3/4 of the bottle to try and preserve what was left, just because. When I got up the nerve to try it I was surprised to find a little fruit, mostly fig and raisin notes but the wine was actually pretty good. As I researched I discovered the wine as made is oxidized in the winemaking process which I guess allows it to survive sub-optimal conditions...the good news of the broker bottle is that I never would have opened either on my own and I now value the remaining bottle even more.

    Sep 26, 2016 at 9:36 AM


Add a Comment

Search Articles


Best Wine Deals

See More Deals





Snooth Media Network