Red Wine Ageing

Chart showing red wine aging

Some red wines age better than others. There are many reasons for this, but one influencing factor is the grape variety. A wine’s natural traits of acidity and tannin create a sort of pathway that allows it to evolve (and even improve) over time. This is why some varietal wines taste better when they’re a slightly older than others, and vice versa.
For example, take a grape like Cabernet Sauvignon. When barrel samples of Cabernet Sauvignon are tasted at a pre-release session, your palate is filled with mouth drying tannin. These wines can be so astringent that your teeth stick to the insides of your lips!
Over time, however, that astringent tannin mellows out through a series of chemical interactions and the wine tastes smoother. And this, is why cellaring wine can be so rewarding. Those red wines with high acidity and high tannin are perfect to lay down for a few years. If you’re afraid of a big investment, try experimenting and aging a few good value wines for just one year. The results are likely to surprise you.
Cabernet Sauvignon is highly variable because there are a wide range of quality levels and regions. Look for wines with deep color, moderately low pH (e.g. higher acidity), balanced alcohol levels, and noticeable tannins.
You wouldn’t think it to be the case, but Merlot ages just as well. The wines become softer and often more smoky (think tobacco) with age. Right-bank Bordeaux is a great place to start with aging Merlot.
Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) has extremely high tannin and color. In the Bandol region of Provence, this grape doesn’t usually come around in exceptional taste until after at least 10 years of aging. Expect rich, peppery, rustic flavors.
Tempranillo is, hands down, one of the best varieties to age long-term. The wine makers of Rioja know this and have a wine classification system built around ageing.
Sangiovese is another top-notch grape variety to age long-term because Sangiovese has such spicy acidity. Over time, this wine mellows out and produces sweet figgy notes.
Check out Brunello di Montalcino for a cellar-worthy example.
The regions of Barolo and Barbaresco are collectors’ favourite places to look for age-worthy Nebbiolo wine. Why? Nebbiolo produces wines with incredibly high tannin that softens and seems to sweeten over time.