+1 855.946.3338

Aged wine isn’t necessarily better

Old Wine BottlesA few weeks ago, my husband and I nervously pulled the cork of a bottle we had tended for almost 15 years. Many occasions came and went with the discussion of whether it was too early, late or the perfect time.

Only a small percentage of the world’s wines improve with age so it’s a wonderful moment when pure patience wins over anticipation in the battle of cellaring a bottle.

Wine does not have to be expensive to show the benefits of aging. Some Napa Valley Cabernets can gain spectacular benefits in 10 years while some Bordeaux transform after a hundred. Consider these tips on aging wines.


Champagne, second to Bordeaux, may have the most distorted view of being age worthy. Aged Champagne can be described as an acquired taste. It loses its zip and bubble, making it much like a yeasty still wine. Avid collectors savor the taste but if you were given a bottle as a wedding gift 20 years ago, most likely it will not be what you are expecting. Most sparkling wines and nonvintage Champagne are best when opened within two years of bottling.


Fortified wines like Port and Madeira are best bets for long-term cellaring. It’s the combination of high alcohol and sugar slowing down the natural deterioration over time.


Long-term cellaring of Burgundy is a lot like playing the stock market; unless you know the producer, it’s a gamble. The same can be said of California pinot noir.

When the age-worthy pinot noir offers its combination of acidity, tannin and concentration, it is a masterpiece. But unless the growing conditions and the winemaker’s technique were perfect, most pinot noir is best consumed within two to four years.


Wine storage is generally the most important factor in successful aging. The lower the temperature, the slower the maturation. In general the more slowly a wine intended for aging matures, the greater complexity of the flavors. Also, in general the smaller the bottle size the faster its contents mature.


A wine’s potential for aging depends on many factors including vintage, producer and storage conditions. The following is a general guideline for wines intended for cellaring: Cabernet sauvignon: four to 20 years Merlot: two to 12 years Nebbiolo: four to 20 years Pinot noir: two to eight years Sangiovese: two to eight years Tempranillo: two to 10 years Chardonnay: one to six years Riesling: two to 30 years Semillon (dry): two to seven years Semillon (botrytised): five to 25 years

Proper wine storage is crucial, but simple

How to properly store wine is a frequent query from Uncorked readers.

Start with the storage conditions.

The optimum temperature is 52 degrees but anywhere from 40 to 65 degrees is safe. However, fluctuation causes inconsistent aging as wines mature faster at higher temperatures and slower at lower, so try to keep the temperature as constant as possible.

Second, keeping wines away from vibration, direct sunlight and excessive dampness is important for a slow, secure cellar slumber.

And finally, placing the bottles on their sides ensures the corks stay in contact with the wine — upright storage can cause the cork to dry out, exposing the wine to air and resulting in oxidation.

But even with these seemingly strict guidelines, there is no need to call in a cellar designer or rush out to buy a state-of-the-art cellaring cooler. Depending on the size and value of your collection, there are many options to fit almost any budget.


  • The bottom of a dark closet, bottles on their sides on the floor (free)
  • A small six- to 12- bottle decorative wine rack available at department and specialty stores ($24-$80)
  • Magic Chef 8 Bottle Wine Cooler (Model MCWC8DSCT) available at Home Depot (about $99)


  • Renting Professional Cellar Space such as Tuscany Wine Vaults at U-Storit in Little Rock. (501) 666-5700 ($20-$200, monthly)
  • Grand Cru 800 Wine Cellar Cooling Unit available at WineEnthusiast.com. (about $399)
  • Eurocave Performance 283 Service Package Wine Cellar with three temperatures available at WineEnthusiast.com. ($2,500-$4,000 retail)
  • Custom built, contact your local builder ($500-$10,000)