The beauty of aged wines

By Lou Phillips · 


If almost all wines are enjoyed the day they are purchased, then why do most serious wine lovers espouse the joys of aged wines?

Well, for one, they are rare and different, which attracts aficionados in any field. When made with grapes and winemaking techniques designed to create wines that develop in good and, hopefully, great ways over time, they offer depth and complexity through the evolution of the molecules in the wine. That’s all wonderful, but the true attraction for lovers of Vino Viejo is magic. Although not a term that can be scientifically supported like the evolution of molecules, magic in a bottle is real. It just takes a little exploration to experience it. Here is the formula.

First, start with a tannic red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon; Bordeaux and Napa are good choices. Tannins, which are present in far greater quantities in red wine, protect wine from pre-mature aging and add interesting aromas and flavors as they evolve. Tannins also marry with the fruit, acid and mineral components to create the beautiful complexity that is the reward of older wines.

Next, select producers with a track record for creating agers. This gets back to the quality of the fruit and the intent of the winemaker. Unless you already have this knowledge, get some help. A large part of what I do as a consultant is to inform clients about wines that age well, and where to either acquire or sell wines without getting fleeced.

Then, know the provenance. Where the bottles came from, how they were stored and the condition of each bottle. This makes all the difference as poor storage or faulty bottle condition will create a sour (literally and figuratively) experience.

Lastly, provide your wines with a good storage area, with consistent cool temperature and sufficient humidity. Although the specifics of a proper cellar are a subject for a full column, temperature and humidity are a good start.

A piece of good news is that older versions of wines from almost any producer or vintage can be acquired. The really great news is that, the cost of a 10-, 20- or 30-year-old edition of a wine you love can often be had for around the same cost as the current vintage. As a standout gift, it’s hard to beat a bottle from a birth or anniversary year.

I invite readers to e-mail me with any wine questions on this topic.

Lou Phillips is a Level 3 Sommelier specializing in guiding private collectors and businesses. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or [email protected]