In my internet wanderings I often come across questions relating to wine, and now that I feel like I know some things about things I thought I’d share what I would say to someone who asked me these questions.
How long can wine last in optimal conditions?
First of all, let’s talk about what ‘optimal conditions’ are when it comes to storing wine.
Ideally you want to store wine in a place that fits three main criteria: cool, dark, and dry. Light, heat and dampness** can all wreak havoc either on the cork or the wine, so you want to try and curb these things as much as possible if you plan to hold on to a bottle for more than a few months.
**Edit: My wonderful stepdad (and personal wine oracle) has gently reminded me that dampness is not quite the red flag I thought it was. Also, I forgot that wines also like to age undisturbed – jostling them around or moving them too much can shorten the life of a wine. The more you know!
So, how long can a wine last in these conditions? Well, like many things in life, it depends. On what, you ask? Read on to find out.
The honest truth is that some varietals just don’t age as well as others. As we’ve talked about before, wines that are high in a combination of tannin, acidity, alcohol, and sugar have a much better chance of standing the test of time than wines that don’t. Read my post on the secrets of wine aging to learn more.
Also, don’t be fooled by people who will tell you that white wines can’t age. Many white varietals have just the right stuff to allow them to stick around for a while. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon to see a really well-made Riesling age 10, 20, even 40 years!
Wine is really all about weather. Some summers are wonderful, full of sun and just the right balance of rain and dryness. And some summers are terrible, leaving winemakers to battle things like damp (bacteria’s playground), drought, and hail – all of which can damage grapevines. If you’re interested in aging wine and giving bottles the best chance at a long life it can help to do some quick Googling into which years (or vintages) were showed promise.
As much as I love an underdog story, there are some regions in the world that consistently produce better wine than others. These are called ‘premium’ regions. What makes them so good? Well, these regions usually have long histories of making wine, which in many cases has led to the creation of wine laws that help codify what works and what doesn’t both in terms of growing grapes and making the wine itself. In short, they know what they’re doing, and the wine shows that.
What regions am I talking about? You probably already know many of them. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Rioja, Priorat, Piedmont, Tuscany, Napa, Marlborough, Mendoza, Walker Bay, Stellenbosch. Google ‘premium wine regions’ and you’ll get a pretty exhaustive list – one that will match up with many of the bottles in your local wine shop.
Of course, there are always pleasant surprises, but these things will guide you well if you decide to start playing the ‘how long will this last’ game.
Do you have any burning wine questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them in a post!