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How Long to Age Wine

(The Uncorked Cellar provides winemaker ageing recommendations for each wine .. ed)

How Long to Age Cabernet Sauvignon

The potential to last and improve for a very long time. Just how long depends, like all cellaring prospects, on the quality of the wine. Good cabernet sauvignon has enormously concentrated tannins, pigments and flavour compounds that, according to Master of Wine Jancis Robinson, allow it to out-live almost all other wines.

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Anything from two years to… the sky is the limit really. If you want to drink soft, cheerful quaffers that don't break the bank then choose your favourite cabernets and keep just a couple of years. Serious hoarders should shop at fine wine stores for cabernet sauvignon from Bordeaux in France, Coonawarra in Australia and the Napa Valley in the United States. The best wines can last for decades. New Zealand is another country that produces impressive cabernet sauvignons but high quality cabernet-based reds from here are a recent occurrence, mainly from Hawke's Bay and the jury is out on how long they can last for as cellaring prospects.


To check out how good the vintage was; a mediocre wine is not going to get any better no matter how long you keep it.

How Long to Age Riesling

The incredible ability to age for decades and still look and taste as fresh as a daisy. This rule applies only to the best German rieslings but Australia's dry rieslings also develop beautifully for at least up to a decade. The riesling grape produces the longest-lived white wine. It is a late ripener with a relatively hard wooded vine, allowing it to thrive in cold conditions, even where frost is a potential problem. Riesling grown in warm conditions often lacks the freshness, delicacy and floral/lime/lemon flavours that it gains from being grown in coolish to cold places.

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Your lifetime, if you buy the best from Germany. Although these wines can be austere when young they are still so delicious that many riesling fanatics drink them young but age improves them out of sight. Australian riesling is also relatively austere when young, in an altogether more dry, steely style than its German cousin, and should be kept for at least three years before approaching. New Zealand riesling is still developing a national or even defined regional styles, but you could confidently keep good riesling from here for two to five years.


To ferret out a good German riesling so that you know how amazing this wine can be. Go to a fine wine store and they will point you in the right direction.

How Long to Age Pinot Noir

The ability to irritate wine makers because it is particularly fussy about where it's grown, how it's trellised, when it's harvested, how it's made and how long it will keep for once bottled. These and other finicky qualities make pinot noir one of the most difficult grapes to tame and produce good wine from. The best come from the Burgundy region, just south of Champagne in north-east France. The Californian regions of Oregon and Carneros are, depending on your point of view and any allegiances, probably second in line for quality. New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Australia also produce some outstanding pinot noirs although most are made from exceptionally young grapevines which need to age themselves before wine made from them can be expected to keep for long periods of time.

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Just how long the best pinot noirs or red burgundies will last is tricky to say but top-notch French versions have been known to evolve beautifully over several decades. Generally, however, expect to drink it under 10 years.


Most pinot noir is generally a drink-young wine so unless you have some of the best burgundies on your hands, do not expect the wines to improve past about five years.

How Long to Age Chardonnay

The ability to produce the world's most outstanding white wine or the misfortune of being the blandest, most ubiquitous, boring white around. It rivals riesling for title of best white wine in the world and, although it ages for a significantly shorter period, great chardonnay outlasts most other white wines. Chardonnay is so loved partly because it grows easily in a wide range of climates and so is planted and produced practically everywhere that wine is made. Good chardonnay is usually either fermented and/or aged in oak and often treated to a portion of malolactic fermentation (the conversion of hard malic acids to softer lactic ones), so it is more than mere fruit that gives the wine flavour.

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As long as the style of wine can take it, which depends entirely on its country and region of origin and, as a general rule of thumb, the price of the wine. Most medium priced chardonnays will improve significantly over two to three years in a good wine cellar. Lower priced wines should be consumed as soon as possible or left on the shelf. Beyond that, style ranges from heavily oaked, big creamy numbers, which usually drink well young, to austere, clean and crisp chardonnay like the French styles of Corton-Charlemagne (almondy) Mersault (butter), Puligny-Montrachet steely) and Chassagne-Montrachet (nutty). Generally the more flavoursome the wine when young the less time you should age it for.


Treat different styles of chardonnay as different styles of wine, since their ageability varies enormously. Find out more via the retailer you buy the wine from or the winery.

How Long to Age Sauvignon Blanc

Its intense aromas are likened to everything from gooseberries, grass and kiwifruit to passionfruit, melon and even – not always flatteringly – cat’s pee. Sauvignon blanc is usually easy to recognise by the smell even before you have taken a sip of the wine. It has relatively high acids but does not usually age well for much longer than two to five years, although the very best wines debunk this theory too. Its spiritual home is in the Loire Valley, France, whose Sancerres and Pouilly-fumes were the inspiration for New Zealand, Australian, Californian and now Chilean sauvignon blanc styles. Unlike most serious aging styles of wine, sauvignon blanc is a drink-me-now wine.

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Not very long, usually. The best are a different story, with top wines (often oak aged versions) being able to go for up to 15 years, according to Jancis Robinson’s Guide to Wine Grapes.


Sauvignon Blanc is made to drink rather than keep and most only last for about five years before embarking on a downhill slide towards old age. If you think the wine is an exception to this rule check out its origin, vintage and history of keeping qualities.

How Long to Age Pinot Gris

How pinot gris tastes depends on where it is made. Its spiritual home of Alsace, France, is where the best pinot gris come from and they range from light whites which can be perfect to drink with a wide range of food to full-bodied dessert wine styles. It is the relatively neutral, grapey flavour of pinot gris that makes the best ones so food-friendly. Flavours span light fresh pears through to ripe, sweet, unctuous apricots and peaches.

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Not very long, usually. Most pinot gris are like most wine; made to drink soon after purchase. The pinot gris grape does not appear, to date, to be one that has the potential for a particularly long life but exceptions include the best Alsatian pinot gris dessert wines. For everyday drinking styles of pinot gris, dry or medium, you could watch them develop in flavour for a year or two but then consume.


pinot gris is made to drink so if you buy it by the case or half case then put it somewhere you will remember to tuck in rather than forget about it.

How Long to Age Merlot

Merlot is one of the most popular red wines in the world but it is definitely a case of getting what you pay for. The popular perception that merlot is soft, fruity and simple is true if the wine in question is made in that style. But merlot is one of the noblest grapes in the vitis vinifera family of wine grapes and it has the ability to be every bit as big, powerful and robust as the staunchest cabernet sauvignons, albeit in a more velvety style.

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No time at all if the wine is low cost because, generally speaking, these styles of wine are soft and relatively simple. On the other hand, if you have a merlot with some oomph and body, find out about the vintage and base your cellaring intentions on that. Great vintages can last anything from five to 25 years or more, depending on your cellaring conditions.


To find out everything you can about the wine if you intend to keep it for any length of time. Check the quality of the vintage and age of vines the wine is made from. The latter information is most pertinent for New World wines rather than those with a good pedigree of aging from Bordeaux. (The Uncorked Cellar provides ageing recommendations for each wine as provided by the winemaker .. ed)

* Adapted with permission from James Wilson

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