One of the most common myths about wine is that it always gets better as it gets older but that’s actually not true. In fact, only around 1% of wines are meant to be aged which can make it harder to decide which bottle to save for a very special occasion.
We tend to liken aged wine to classic cars because they resonate style and time – they still drive great today because they have been built to do so, provided they are cared for properly – but how do you know just which wines are worth the effort?
Generally wines with a low pH content will age well because high-pH wines tend to oxidise faster. In reds you’re also looking for a high tannin content, which happens when the grape skins, seeds and stems sit in the grape juice for a long time after compression. Tannins also work as an antioxidant, further protecting the wine.
Cabernet is a great example of a red wine that can improve with age. A young Cabernet will taste quite dry (that’s the result of the tannins) but as it gets older it will mellow and become very smooth. A balanced Shiraz ages differently however. Its beautiful fruit flavours will remain present, but it will develop the wonderful secondary characteristics of soft toffee and coffee bean.
White wines, on the other hand, are not typically fermented with their skins or seeds. In this case you’re after something with a high acid level, like a Chardonnay, which will see deep honey flavours emerge over time. Semillon also develops a honey note, and lanolin, as it ages. Botrytis Semillon is another a great ager, and can be stored for up to 20 years.
At the end of the day, though, if you want to open the bottle we say go for it! After all, wine is made to be drunk and enjoyed!