How Long to Cellar Varieties of Wine
Friday, 28 October 2011
If there’s one thing that even the newest of wine-drinkers can state with confidence it’s that wine improves with age. The longer you keep the bottle in the cellar, the better it will taste when you eventually pull the cork and start drinking. Like most rules, it’s one that’s usually best broken.
The length of time that you should cellar wine will depend primarily on the grape but also on the wine itself, its quality and even its vintage. If that makes things difficult, there are a few guidelines that you can follow.
Cabernet sauvignons generally cellar very well. A couple of years is usually a good length of time to keep a cabernet sauvignon but very good wines, including those from Coonawarra in Australia, can keep for decades if the vintage is right.
Riesling grapes are used in some of the longest-kept white wines and can still taste lively decades after bottling. An Australian riesling will develop well over the course of about ten years and while they can be drunk right away should really be cellared for a minimum of three years.
Chardonnays generally improve for about two or three years after bottling but quality is vital for this white wine. A low-cost wine should really be poured right away while top-end chardonnays are ready for drinking after no more than three years.
Sauvignon blanc wines don’t age well. Once you’ve reached the two year mark, the wine is probably about as good as it will get and that’s almost certainly true after five years. The exceptions are a few really excellent wines but for the most part, expect to be pouring your sauvignon blanc as soon as you buy it.
Like sauvignon blanc, a good rule of thumb is to enjoy your merlot as soon as possible. That’s because most merlots are produced in large numbers and most are fairly simple, the kind of wine that’s not likely to become more complex over time. As with other grape varieties, there are always exceptions though and a great vintage can be better after five years and a few can cellar for as long as 25 years.
A few pinot noirs have been known to age well over decades but it’s not something to try at home. Most will be ready for drinking as soon as they’re bought and a few might cellar well for as much as five years. In general though, pinot noir wines are best drunk sooner rather than later.