What is a wine for ageing ?
You've probably heard it before in a conversation between wine lovers, but do you know what's behind the expression "wine for ageing" ? If you are thinking about building a wine cellar or adding to your existing one, read on to discover explanations and tips on the subject of wine for ageing.
Wine for ageing : definition
A wine for aging is a wine that can be kept for a long time before being consumed. If only a few wines can claim this title, it is because not all wines improve with time. Some wines reveal their best aromas after a decade in the cellar, while others lose their taste qualities after a few months.
If wine conservation is an infinitely complex science that can only be mastered by connoisseurs, a few criteria can help beginners and the simply curious to estimate whether or not the bottle they have in their hands has a good ageing potential.
How to recognize a wine for ageing ?
To know if you are dealing with a wine for aging, pay attention to the following elements
- Tannin content (for red wines): the more tannin a wine has, the better it will age. Some grape varieties have stronger tannins than others, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec and Tannat.
- Acidity: An acidic wine will generally have a better ageing potential. Even if it seems too acidic at first, keep in mind that acidity will naturally fade with age.
- The power of the aromas: an intense wine, rich in aromas with a marked fleshiness will tend to gain in complexity and depth over the years, unlike a more limpid wine which would risk to be exhausted quickly.
As for white wines, which do not contain tannins, it is the sugar, the acidity and the aromatic depth that will make them good wines to keep.
In short, a wine rich in phenolic compounds (anthocyanins, tannins, phenolic acids...) will have a greater tendency to become more noble over the years.
Other factors that influence the aging of wine
Obviously, these three factors are not the only ones to be taken into account to determine if a wine has a good ageing potential or not. You will also need to keep an eye on :
- Its vintage and terroir: wines made from grapes harvested during a year with optimal climatic conditions and in a prestigious terroir can be better wines for aging. However, some "bad" vintages can reveal all their brilliance after a few years in the cellar... This is also what makes the magic of wine.
- The winemaking technique: the winemaker's know-how is one of the main factors influencing the maturation of the wine. Wines made from grapes harvested at perfect maturity, processed with a traditional winemaking method and aged in barrels have a better chance of improving with age. Of course, this parameter is often the unknown in the equation, and you will have to rely on the words of your wine merchant to find the rare pearl.
- Storage conditions: a wine that is considered "de garde" can be severely altered if it does not contain enough preservatives, if the bottle is closed with a damaged or poor quality cork, and if the cellar in which it is stored is subject to strong variations in humidity and temperature.
The evolution curve of the wine
Like a living being, wine evolves over time. Each wine has its own evolution curve, and its peak appears more or less long after its bottling. In addition to the differences in the duration of each phase of evolution of the wine, we can schematize this progression in 4 stages:
- Youth, during which acidity and tannins are prominent, giving the wine a fruity and flowery taste.
- The maturation, period where the wine improves progressively until its apogee.
- The apogee, as its name indicates, is the ideal time to consume the wine. The maturation phase has brought the wine to its peak, its aromas are ready to reveal all their richness.
- The decline: after this golden age, the wine gradually loses its qualities, its structure deteriorates and its tannins lose their power.
Which regions produce the best wines for aging ?
As you will have understood, the ageing potential of a wine is based on a set of factors that are more or less easy to determine, and it is not very relevant to rely only on one of them to compose your cellar. Nevertheless, some regions are known to produce wines that are particularly suitable for ageing.
This is the case of the great wines of the Bordeaux region, with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, of the Loire region, with the wines of Saumur or Chinon and chenin, of the south of France, with Banyuls, the whites of Corbières, tannat or madiran, of Burgundy with chardonnay and pinot noir, or of Aslace with riesling, to give only these examples.
Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to wine, pleasure comes first. The best way to develop a natural acuity to choose wines for aging is to follow your instincts and your desires, even if it means making a few mistakes. By adopting this posture, you will certainly open the way to some disappointments, but above all to beautiful surprises that will only enrich your oenological knowledge.