For most people, wine is a bit mysterious, associated with romantic images of candlelit dinners, getting together with good friends, and old-world wine estates with dusty bottles turning ever more precious over the decades. Wine School was certainly respectful of the romance, but all about the facts. Winemakers lovingly tend vineyards, but in the end the great ones closely monitor the chemistry of the ripening grapes, the fermentation vats, and the aging barrels. And the chemistry says, once the juice is in the bottle, only 5% of wines produced will gain anything by aging.
In part, this is because most wine is pretty simple stuff. According to SipSource, 73% of the U.S. wine market is priced under $8 (per .75L bottle). These wines just don’t have the chemical stuffing to age. Even wines in the Premium ($15-$20) and Super Premium ($20-$30) categories are not likely to benefit from aging. To age well, wines need a complex mix of tannins, acids, and other chemical compounds that will evolve for about three years following bottling. Some wines may take even longer to come together and show their true potential. Getting all that complexity into the bottle involves winemaking steps like barrel aging, which add cost to the final wine. Even many of the vaunted wines of Bordeaux, historically requiring age before they are ready, are now made to be drunk sooner rather than later.
Furthermore, even if your wine is age worthy, it must be properly stored (temperature, humidity, protection from sunlight) to avoid damage. We’ll talk about these issues more at Walter on Wine. We do love wines that age. But for now, know that unless you have great reason to believe your wine will benefit from aging and you have the right means to store it, it’s probably best to enjoy it sooner rather than later.