Busting the Biggest Wine Myth of All

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And, the winner is… “The older the better.” This myth crops up over and over, all the time, and it’s not a good thing because for the vast majority of wines made, world wide, the opposite is true.

When in doubt, down the hatch!

Forget about aging value wines. I know someone is going to write me back citing their favorite value red that’s always nicer with age, but let’s go with the big picture here. Generally speaking, these wines are made for immediate consumption and won’t hold up for more that two to four years. Especially whites and rosé wines. In most cases, the younger the better. 

This means, when you see white wine in the sale bin, it may not be such a bargain. Not if you end up dumping it down the drain instead of drinking it. 

And, in the world of fine wine, there are still more wines that don’t improve with age than those that do.

So, which wines to age?

Pages could be written on that subject, but let’s boil it down to high quality reds, rich dessert wines and a handful of whites, especially those from cool climates (think northern European such as Burgundy, Alsace and Germany – these, also, need to be high quality wines).

The important components for age-ability are tannin and acid. Cool-climate wines tend to be high in acid. Reds can be high in tannin.

Caveat! Just because critic says the wine can “improve” with age, you don’t necessarily want to do it. We Americans love fruity wine and fruitiness is always a youthful trait. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting next to someone who’s felt quite disappointed when they’ve tried an older red for the first time. They thought the wine would somehow get bigger and fruitier with age when the opposite happens. Old reds are treasured for their subtle complexity and velvety texture.

Sugar and alcohol can aid with longevity, too, but it’s a little tricky.

For instance, aging the very popular, sweet Moscato isn’t a good bet. And an overblown Californina Cab that’s 16% alcohol may not age well either. 

Let’s say the sugar usually counts for concentrated dessert wines like Sauternes (which also happens to be very high in acid).

For high alcohol, look to fortified wines like Vintage Port or Madeira, m’dear.

This is quite a complex topic, but the best advice? Drink it! 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Busting the Biggest Wine Myth of All

  1. Sugar is another preservative factor. Well made sweet wines such as Sauternes can last much longer than ‘acidic’ dry whites or even ‘tannic’ reds.

  2. Nancy Hawks Miller

    Absolutely right! Sorry if I did’t mention it. And, don’t forget alcohol! When folks ask about something to put away for their child’s 21st birthday, my recommendation is usually vintage Port or a fine Sauternes! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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