Are Older Wines Better Wines?

When you see pictures of French wine caves and elaborate wine cellars in the homes of movie stars, it’s easy to get the impression that old wines are better than wines that have been recently bottled. But the truth isn’t nearly so cut and dry. In fact, many wines are at their best in their first few years, and even the best-aged wines reach a point where time diminishes their flavor rather than enhancing it. The secret to an ideal experience is knowing which types of wine actually do taste better with age and how long to leave them in the bottle.

Wines That Get Better with Age

For some wines, aging in the bottle softens them and allows their full complexity to be enjoyed. Most, but not all, of these are full-bodied reds. According to Better Tasting Wine, the following wines should be allowed to age in the bottle for maximum enjoyment:

  • Old World Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux, Meritage, California wines made in the French style) — 20+ years
  • French Merlot (St. Emilion, Pomerol) — 15 to 20 years
  • Syrah (Shiraz) — 5 to 15 years
  • Riesling — up to 15 years
  • White Bordeaux (made from Semillon) — 20+ years
  • Champagne (top quality) — 20+ years
  • Sauterne — up to 100 years

Wines to Drink Young

For purposes of wine, young is generally defined as five years old and younger. One of the most notable wines that are at its best as soon as it is bottled is the French Beaujolais Nouveau. The new vintage of this product of Burgundy, made with Gamay grapes, is released each year on the third Thursday of November to much excitement and headlines. However, Beaujolais isn’t the only wine that can be enjoyed to its fullest while young. Better Tasting Wine lists several types that are best when consumed in less than five years:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Red Zinfandel
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc

So don’t worry if you don’t have the time or the space to age wines for decades. You can enjoy plenty of quality wines right out of the wine store. Salut!