December 01, 2021 by Arden Montgomery
Best Wines for Aging
Dyed-in-the-wool oenophiles love to talk about the wine aging process. An inherent aspect of crafting this timeless fermented libation, aging your best bottles can help to bring out deeper, more complex notes not afforded by younger wines.
But how does it work? What do you do? And can you subject just any old bottle of Barefoot or 2-Buck Chuck to years in the dark of your cellar? If you’re ready to move into the aging part of your wine journey, we are here with some advice, and a few time-friendly bottles from the Argaux collection we think you’ll love.
How to age wine
As with all fermented foods and beverages, wine is made through a process of “controlled rot” — yeasts and beneficial bacterias consume and transform the sugars in wine’s originating grape juice into alcohol, creating new flavors along the way. And as long as these critters are kept alive and happy, the process can continue.
Usually what this means is keeping your aging bottles away from harmful warmth and sunlight, such as in a wine cellar. Ideally your bottles won’t budge while they’re in late-stage fermentation, as too much jostling before their time can disrupt the chemistry going on inside.
If you’re a wine enthusiast of the digital era, there are also a number of purpose-built wine fridges made especially for aging that allow you to control the temperature and humidity in which your bottles are stored until you are ready to uncork them. Natural fluctuations in traditional storage spaces have proven to be problematic in the past.
Heat and light are the enemies of wine aging, but you also don’t want to full-on refrigerate your bottles as this can slow the process way, way down. Experts recommend storing your wines in an environment between 45 and 65 degrees fahrenheit.
How long can you age wine?
The precise aging period recommended will depend on the varietal of wine you wish to age. And that’s because different grapes have different sugar contents which affect how quickly a bottle goes from juice, to vino, to vinegar.
But it’s also because different wines are made to express specific flavor profiles, and you will lose the characteristic feel and flavor if a bottle is opened too early, or left too long.
In general, you can get away with aging red wines much longer than whites. Sweet reds like Port and Nebbiolo can stay bottled for 40 – 50 years and achieve a delicious and highly alcoholic profile. Chardonnay on the other hand is one of the more age-friendly white varietals, but should be uncorked after 10 years.
And you don’t always have to take your aged bottles to the end of their course. You might find that you prefer a 5 year Cab Sauv to a 20 year, and it’s up to you to decide how long something should remain in your cellar. We recommend tasting as many vintages as you can to see what works best for you.
Best wines for aging
Some wines (we won’t name names) are less than ideal for aging. The process of extended fermentation just doesn’t seem to work for them. Those wines are the libations of youth, and should be sipped in the spring of their time before the wizening of time sets it.
That being said, here are a few of the most age-friendly wines we currently have in our cellars. Salute!
Best red wines for aging
- 2017 Domaine Rougeot Volnay-Santenots Premier Cru – $125
No matter how long you let this beautiful Burgundy rest, give her an hour or two upon uncorking to breathe (she’s slow to wake up, but oh-so delightful when she does.) A bold flavor that is at once fruity, earthy, herbaceous and floral, smooth tannins will only get smoother the longer you wait.
- 2019 San Giorgio a Lapi Sangiovese Rosso – $22
Red, red, red. Ruby color, with notes of red fruits and red flowers to coat your palate. But expect the blush tones and acidic notes of red cherry, red cranberry, red rose, and leaf from a red tomato to give way to a brickier tone and sweeter taste as it ages. Place this wine in your cellar now, and pull out in 10 years to enjoy with your favorite charcuterie spread.
- Emidio Pepe Vertical featuring 2001, 2002, 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
Emidio Pepe has a cult following for his non-conventional winemaking techniques that have made the estate and wines legendary. Major wine publications have anticipated that this wine will reach its peak drinking window from 2013-2031 – meaning now’s the time to jump! Prior to release, bottles are opened and decanted one by one by Rosa Pepe, the family matriarch, into new bottles after which they are re-corked, labeled by hand and shipped. There is no fining, filtration, or SO2 added during the second bottling.
Emidio Pepe is a singular producer creating amazingly complex age-worthy reds and whites in a region of mass produced, overly engineered versions of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Though the family has been producing wines here since the end of the 19th Century, the winemaking process has remained philosophically unchanged since Emidio Pepe took over the estate in 1964. The business and wine production has been in the hands of the fourth generation of the Pepe family with sisters, Daniela and Sofia, since 1997. And more recently, the dynamic Chiara de Iulis Pepe has joined the estate as the fifth generation!
Best white wines for aging
- 2018 Domaine De Oliveira Lecestre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – $95
White Burgundies are some of the best light aging wines, and this one tops the charts in our collection. Delicate mineral aromas and the summer scent of white fruits and flowers deepen over time. The strong and youthful body becomes softer and sweeter with age, developing tropical notes of citrus, stone fruit, and royal pineapple.
- 2016 Wonderland Project ‘White Queen’ Sonoma Chardonnay – $25
Expect this light-and-fruity lemon tart Chardonnay to darken, sweeten, and develop an even more voluptuous body over the next couple of years. The aging process for the White Queen began partially in French oak barrels, lending a mature spiciness to the experience.
For aging or for drinking immediately at your Solstice soireé, we at Argaux are offering a seasonal 6 pack that will let you sip your way through the darker months and learn more about some of our favorite fall vintages. Cozy up to the fire, host a sophisticated tailgate, and stash some away to see what wonders age can work on your bottles.