© Chappellet Vineyard By Megan Krigbaum Posted September 18, 2015
Not every wine gets better as it ages, but the ones that do undergo a miraculous metamorphosis. F&W’s Megan Krigbaum explains the transformation and reveals a few bottles that stand the test of time.
The Truth About Aging
Myth: All wines improve as they age.
Truth: For a wine to age well, it needs a backbone of acidity or tannins. Without this structure, flavors flatten over time. Even ageable wines can go through phases in the bottle where they’re especially expressive or a little closed down (“dumb,” in wine speak).
Myth: White wine doesn’t age as well as red wine.
Truth: A lot of white wines are best when young and fresh. But many fuller-bodied whites become extraordinarily honeyed and nutty with age.
Myth: Old wines are objectively superior.
Truth: Certainly some people love the way wines change as they age. As reds mature, for instance, the bitter tannins mellow and subtle, earthy flavors emerge. But whether those flavors are better is a matter of taste—plenty of people prefer the boisterous fruit and tangy acidity of younger wines.
It’s completely normal for wines—both red and white—to produce sediment as they mature. In red wine, tannins, which give structure, link up to form long, dense protein chains that sink to the bottom of the bottle. As those tannins fall out, the wine becomes softer and more supple. To avoid serving glasses of sludge, gently decant these wines, leaving the sediment in the bottle.