Very often I hear people say they can’t drink a wine because it’s not old enough or wine tastes better when it’s aged or a wine is too young to drink right now.
This is frustrating because while there are wines that do taste better when aged, the majority of wine produced in the world is meant to be drunk within 2–4 years (some even during a shorter time frame) after release.
For a wine to age gracefully, it must have backbone, which is tannin or acidity. But more importantly, it should have a high fruit concentration. With time, tannin or acidity mellows slowly while fruit concentration subsides, disappears or evolves at a quicker pace into tertiary aromas (think nuts, dried fruits, mushrooms, autumn leaves). A wine with only moderate tannin or acidity will be too soft after a few years and a wine without a high fruit concentration will taste like bitter tea or acidic water without any flavour.
Some grape varieties have ageing potential, but that doesn’t mean all wines must be aged. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah/Shiraz with high tannin and acidity age well, but some winemakers deliberately want to make them accessible when young, so they tone down the tannin at the cellar. Similarly, a soft and juicy Pinot Noir is best enjoyed young while a more structured and concentrated Pinot Noir is best drunk after a few years, letting it evolve.
Typical white wines that age well include Riesling and Chenin Blanc, both with high acidity. Chardonnay has only medium acidity and neutral aromas, but Chardonnay fermented in barrels gives an extra complexity and dimension to the wine that allows it to age.
Rosé is a wine that is definitely best enjoyed when it’s young. It doesn’t have the tannin as in red wine, and the colour changes from attractive, vibrant pink or salmon to dull orange or onion skin as it gets older. More importantly, we drink rosé for its fruitiness, which dissipates gradually over time.
A wine with ageing potential often tastes tight with firm tannin or high acidity. The fruit aromas may be mute, but you should feel the concentration and heavy palate weight. These are signs of ageing potential. But most wines taste fresh, smooth and delicious at a young age. Therefore, don’t hesitate to open and enjoy a wine that is one or two years old. If you enjoy it, it’s a good wine.