Translated for you: how to age wine

If the idea of ​​aging a wine and mistaking the moment of its opening haunts you, here is a small and useful guide on how to age wines.

The original article “When to Open a Bottle: Aging Wine Without the Anxiety” by Eric Asimov appears in The New York Times. In the article, the author explains how to age wine bottles, without being afraid to open them too early or too late: we have translated it for you.

Aging a wine is a hopeful and optimistic act, marred by fear and anguish. What you want is to be rewarded by a bottle of wine capable of evolving from a clumsy and disjointed youth to a phase of expressive beauty, to then arrive,aging a wine is a hopeful and optimistic acteventually, to a refined complexity. The fears that usually emerge concern not having waited long enough or having waited too long , not having created the right which to age a wine and ultimately to have lost forever what it could become or what it left behind. Reinforcing these basic anxieties is the erroneous belief that bottles tend to age to a transient peak, then quickly slip into oblivion. For this reason, many believe that, by opening a bottle at the wrong time, you risk losing that special moment forever. Too often, in fact, I have seen people unable to enjoy a bottle of delicious wine, convinced that they have missed the peak.

Understanding which bottles to age and when to open them is one of the most enigmatic aspects of the world of wine. A misunderstanding quickly leads to miserable outcomes. The questions put on the table by the concept of aging only add a further veil of doubts to a subject who already seems to be possessed by an inexhaustible capacity to cause anxiety to otherwise self-confident people. Day after day, the potential for defeat could await us around the corner. Did I choose the wrong wine? Did I pay too much for it? Did I choose a bad cellar? Did I serve it with the wrong food? In the wrong glass? Should I have had it decanted? Or shouldn’t I? I give you good news about the aging of wines: beyond what is usually believed,there is no suitable time to uncork a bottle . The right time to uncork it is when you want to drink it . And if you do it right, it’s hard to go wrong.

When to uncork

First, it is important to understand that wine never ages to a peak, and then rapidly expires. The type of wine that tends to improve with age does so within a limited period of time ,wine tends to improve as it ages and does so over a short period of timeduring which it will offer the palate delicious flavors, from youthful exuberance to middle-aged complexity, up to an inevitable fragility. Which of these stages is preferable depends on the type of wine and above all on your tastes. It was once said that the British adored the personality of well-aged champagne, in which the bubbles, perhaps a little aggressive in their youth, had softened into a gentle sizzle, allowing its flavors to combine a complex smoky bouquet, which reminded up close, a naked and raw touch of caramel. Biscottato, the British called it. On the contrary, the French were said to prefer champagne that is young and lively, full of energy and full of essential flavors.

But these are, of course, narrow commonplaces. The point is that the best time to open a bottle is always subjective . The real trick is knowing your preferences well , and developing this talent takes time and effort. An effective method is to buy multiple bottles of a single wine that is worth aging. A case is perfect but even just 6 bottles are just fine. Then he waits, even for a long time. The first bottle is opened after 2 years and the second after 5. The evolutionary path is noted and it is decided which stage is preferred.

Years ago, before the price took off, I bought 6 bottles of Clos St. Jacques by Louis Jadot from 2002 , a very good, high-end Gevrey-Chambertin premier cru. I opened a bottle in 2007,it’s like investing everything you own in a single stock on the stock exchangebut he was still too young and could offer only a timid hint of what he might become. Drinking it was like being trapped in the first paragraph of a great novel, without being able to read the following pages. Had it been the only bottle in my possession, I would have certainly been disheartened. Aging a single bottle of wine is a gamble, it’s like investing everything you own on a single stock on the stock exchange. Having more bottles means covering the risk. Opening a bottle too soon will end up offering us useful information, instead of slipping us into despair. I let 10 years pass before I opened the second bottle, but when I did, wow, if it wasn’t delicious, deep and complex, even if still youthful. This wine has a long way to go and I am delighted by the idea of ​​being able to drink four more bottles.

Where to age wines

If you have the desire to age wines, it is important to have a suitable storage place . A cool, dark cellar with no vibrations is ideal. And even a million dollars to fill this cellar doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, many of us have to do our best in less than ideal conditions. The refrigerators at a moderate temperature wineI can represent a solution. The better ones are a good investment, but of all the people who own one, I have yet to meet the one who tells me hers is big enough. If you have a cellar that can’t keep the ideal temperature of 12 degrees all year round, don’t despair. Temperature variation is not the worst that can happen, provided it doesn’t get too high. If we exclude some particular vintage, the wines are more resistant than what is usually believed.

Spontaneous evolution of wine

Beyond the method used to preserve the bottles, wine will always find a way to disappoint and deceive you. The bottle will take on the flavor of the cork, stage some other kind of flaw or simply, once opened, it will prove disappointing. The level of discomfort you will feel will be directly proportional to your patience and how much you have invested in it. Unfortunately, this is part of the game. The evolutionary path that the bottle will take will vary according to the type of wine, the style of the cellar that produced it and the specific vintage. Wines such as the finest Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo have a wide evolutionary range. In the first 10 years, their enjoyable potential remains trapped in an impenetrable blanket of tannins. But these long-lived bottles aren’t the only ones worth aging.

For many years, it was common to be advised to consume Beaujolais and Muscadet when still very young, because it was said that these wines did not have the ability to age.beaujolais and muscadet were not considered wines to be aged, but to be drunk while still very youngIt was a common belief at a time when both the Beaujolais and the Muscadets were haphazardly produced to sprinkle the shelves of large retailers. The countless treatments that these wines received during the making ended up stripping them of their vital force. This is why they were drunk young: the passage of time would only lead to defeat. However, we know that, when they are made conscientiously, keeping handling to a minimum, even these wines can surprise us, if not precisely for their ability to age, for their ability to evolve. The rampant vivacity of a young Muscadet becomes wider and deeper over the years, perhaps losing a little of its incisiveness and becoming more complex at the same time. I have nothing against aged Muscadet: it can be an extraordinary wine, and many like to drink it that way. But I have decided that I prefer him young. I also like Beaujolais young, but I recently opened a bottle of Daniel Bouland Morgon Vieilles Vignes, 2005 vintage, and it had a wonderful flavor, at the same time velvety and earthy, with a violet aftertaste. I haven’t drunk it for a decade, and I have no way of knowing what I’ve been missing in the meantime. But, right now, it’s really good. and I have no way of knowing what I’ve been missing in the meantime. But, right now, it’s really good. and I have no way of knowing what I’ve been missing in the meantime. But, right now, it’s really good.

For a long time one of the most reliable joys in the wine world has been white Burgundywell aged. It was commonly believed that white Burgundy aged better than red Burgundy. This was before the end of the 90s, when the bottles of white Burgundy began to oxidize prematurely, as a habit. Countless admirers of white Burgundy have had to live the unpleasant experience of looking forward to opening a fine bottle and then do it and find themselves pouring a scorching, oxidized and cider-colored disappointment into the glass. Although we have run for cover, the problem has not yet been rooted out. It’s not all about the bottles, of course, but the percentage of those affected has meant that people like me have developed the taste of fresh and still young white Burgundy.

While I am convinced that many of the wines suitable for aging have countless pleasures to offer during the process, there are still many mysteries. These certainly include the white wines of Côtes du Rhône . In their youth, they can be lively and floral, with a pleasant mineral aftertaste. Aging long, say, ten years for a St. Joseph and twenty years for a Hermitage , they can become extraordinary – in the case of the Hermitage, even transcendental. And in between? Too often I have been drinking white Rhône with a monotonous and tedious taste, as if they had been aged in a cocoon or kept in hibernation. The transition phase from lively youth to complex maturity is sometimes rightly definedmonotonous phase . It is an annoying notion to digest, because it becomes difficult to understand the beginning and especially the end. But it is reassuring, because it indicates that wine is alive, it is not a stable and distorted drink . Fortunately, however, this phenomenon is not very widespread among the wines that are produced today.

Aging potential

Perhaps even more difficult than knowing when to open a bottle is judging its aging potential at the outset . Keeping a log where you can track changes and impressions can help you get an idea.the aging estimates, divided by gender, are not difficult to find online Estimates of aging , divided by type of wine, are not difficult to trace, both on the net and in wine manuals. For individual bottles, people typically share their personal experiences on sites like We already know that a young Barolo or a Barbaresco need time to grow, but how long it takes depends on individual taste, the style of the cellar that produced them and the quality of the vintage. Other wines, historically and eminently capable of aging gracefully, such as the various Chenin Blancs and Cabernet Francs of the Loire Valley, the reds of Etna and the Blaufränkische of Burgenland, not to mention the artfully made sherries and rosés, require intuition. more inspired.

The structure , which is due to the tannins or acidity or both of these factors, and the concentration , or the intensity of the taste, are the most obvious signs that a wine has the right requisites for aging. But equally important, if not more so, is balancing, the fact that all elements are present in the right proportions. The problem of balancing can sometimes question what has been proclaimed by experts, and also how important, ultimately, the aging of a wine. Some of the vintages commonly considered to be great, such as the 2000 Bordeaux and the 2005 Burgundy, have yet, in my opinion, to offer the best. They are both concentrated and powerful, but balance has often failed in the bottles I drank. At the same time, the 2001 and 2008 vintages of Bordeaux, and the Burgundy of 2007, which are often considered inferior, proved to be delightful. Will they still be this good in 2050, when future generations will be able to taste Bordeaux from 2000 and Burgundy from 2005 at their peak? Maybe yes. I’m not sure I’ll still be around to say that.


Often understanding which wines can successfully age is not so intuitive, but with a little experience and a minimum of research it is possible to identify suitable candidates.


  1. Historic wines . The Burgundy , the Barolo and Bordeaux are obviously suitable for aging, but not all in the same way. The conditions of the particular vintages are crucial, from this point of view, and also the working processes of the production cellars. Both the web and print guides, such as the annual edition of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, offer good general estimates, relative to vintages, of aging capacity.
  2. Wines produced with care . As a general rule, the more treatments a wine undergoes in the production phase, the less energy it has left to age and evolve. As often happens, a good wine shop, supported by an attentive and prepared staff, can guide you in the purchase of particular bottles.
  3. Whites . The Riesling , both dry and sweet ones, often grow old gracefully, and so many Chenin Blanc and many Chardonnay . It depends on the intentions and methods used by those who produce them.
  4. Alcoholic content . The alcohol content of a wine is often a significant factor, but it doesn’t necessarily always have to be. A high percentage to the point of seeming anomalous can allude to an unbalanced wine. For example, a 15 degree Pinot Noir, rather than in the more typical range of 12 to 14, may indicate a wine made with overripe grapes. Another wine, such as Zinfandel, may have its balance point at 14.5 degrees.
  5. Price . It is often a good indicator when compared to a bottle of the same type. A 25 euro Chianti Classico will probably age better than a 10 euro one. But this equation is not always reliable. I drank some Cabernets from the Napa Valley, aged better than other similar wines, more noble and with a significantly more exorbitant price.
  6. Wines that shouldn’t be aged . Mass-produced and ultra-treated wines should be drunk as is. Likewise, wines that are handcrafted to quench thirst, what the French call vins de soif , are meant to offer immediate pleasure. They will certainly not improve over time.

The best way to understand which wines to age is to try and try again . Learning by doing errors. Do not be afraid. Do you like young Grüner Veltliners? Set aside a couple of good bottles for 3 or 4 years and see if you like the result. Try it also with Beaujolais and New York State Cabernet Francs. Experimenting is vital but unfortunately, time will not run any faster to come to your aid.

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