Do All Wines Improve with Age?

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Is older really better when it comes to choosing a bottle? We investigate.

Picking out the right bottle of wine for your taste, occasion, and budget can be just a bit intimidating with so many factors to consider. In particular, there seems to be a presumed value to older wines, and we got to wondering—is older really always better? So we chatted with Jarad Slipp, the Estate Director and Master Sommelier of RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, Virginia, to get the scoop on the science of wine. And as it turns out, a common misconception is that the older the year on the bottle, the better the wine. In reality, it is much more nuanced than that, and luckily many wines are actually made to be consumed pretty quickly. See what else Slipp has to say about the age of wines:

Does wine necessarily get better the older it gets?
“No wine ever gets better with age; it only gets different. If you prefer big, luscious, powerful wines, there’s little reason to wait. Most wines in the world are made to be consumed upon release – only a select few have the necessary elements (acid, tannin, etc.) to age for extended periods of time.”

But… there are indeed some wines that are better with age?
“If you have the time, patience, and funds to wait, you can certainly be well rewarded. Of the thousands of wines I’ve tasted in my career, the best often have some age under their belt. These tend to be rare treats though; it’s tough to drink 1947 Musigny, Riesling from the 60s, and Madeira that predated our founding fathers on a daily basis!”

What are some examples of types that are better fresh?
“Albarino, Sancerre, Chinon, Beaujolais, Gruner Veltliner, to name a few.”

Why do you think there’s a misconception that all wine is better aged?
“Well, aged wine typically costs a lot more...”

How long does it take for the flavor to noticeably change? Are we talking six months, six years, or sixty years?
“Unfortunately there’s no one exact number, as it totally depends on the grape, region, producer and vintage. Also it’s not a linear curve either, it ebbs and flows along the way.”

When shopping for wine or ordering at a restaurant, what key details related to age should readers keep in mind?
“Know a handful of the better vintages from regions you enjoy i.e.: 1994 & 1997 for Napa Cabs are great right now. Oh, and bring your wallet!”

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