Knowing how to buy wine for aging is a challenge for many beginner collectors. This is partially because it’s easy to conflate quality with aging potential. However, just because a wine is delicious and received high scores from critics does not necessarily mean it can age for decades. So, which wines do have great aging potential and why should you age wine at all?
Why Age Wine?
Aging wine is an important part of wine collecting for many collectors and it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Buying wine young and laying it down to age has a number of advantages, including:
- Development of complex, mature flavors. The flavor profile of many age-worthy wines shifts over time. The flavors become more complex and savory, the aromatics turn into a bouquet, and the tannins become fine and silky. This isn’t true of all age-worthy wines (some stay more or less the same with age), but the vast majority of wines with aging potential show at least some flavor evolution.
- Higher return on investment. If you consider fine wine a financial asset, then age-worthy bottles are some of the most reliable investments. You can buy bottles at a relatively low cost while they’re still immature and then resell them on the secondary market at peak maturity and at a much higher price.
- Ideal for special events. Aging wine yourself prepares you for future milestone celebrations. If you have a special occasion coming up like an anniversary or graduation, you’ll already have a collection of impressive, mature wines to choose from.
- More time to decide what to do with your wine. If you’re unsure whether to open that valuable bottle of 2001 Château d’Yquem or resell it later, you don’t have to make a decision right away. A wine like this could easily age for another few decades, giving you more than enough time to make your choice. A decade from now, you might discover that your wine is worth much more than expected (or vice versa). Or, if your tastes change, you can use the profits from selling your older wines to buy new bottles that better match your current tastes.
If any of these benefits appeal to you, then it’s a good idea to learn how to buy wine for aging. However, even experienced collectors sometimes have trouble determining which wines will age and for how long. This guide will help you discover wines with excellent aging potential that also match your palate, lifestyle, and goals.
What Qualities Do Age-Worthy Wines Share?
A few qualities set age-worthy wines apart from most other wines. They are:
A wine doesn’t need to have all of these qualities to be age-worthy. For example, Château d’Yquem and other Sauternes producers make wines that are high in acidity but not particularly tannic. The acidity alone is enough to increase the aging potential.
Some wines have one or more of these qualities but are still meant to be drunk young. A good example of this is Sauvignon Blanc. This variety is high in acidity, yet most of these wines don’t age well (with some exceptions). This is partly because producers typically don’t ferment Sauvignon Blanc in oak. Instead, they choose to make crisp Sauvignon Blanc that drinkers can enjoy immediately upon release.
It’s also important to keep in mind that just because a wine is age-worthy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valuable. If you’re looking for ageable wines that you can resell on the secondary market later, then you’ll need to invest in wines that are both age-worthy and profitable. For example, Commandaria is a sweet red wine that can age for centuries, yet most bottles are inexpensive. By comparison, a bottle of 2009 Château Cheval Blanc has great aging potential but will also increase significantly in market value over the next few decades. Aging potential doesn’t automatically correlate to value or quality. You should invest in long-lived wines only if you want to taste how they evolve or if you plan on reselling your bottles after they reach maturity.
The Longest-Lived Wines in the World
If you’ve decided to start a collection of wines for aging, it’s a good idea to start with wines known for their aging ability. Below, we’ve put together a list of varieties and styles that age beautifully:
Why it ages so well: Nebbiolo is extremely acidic and tannic. It’s a well-structured wine that is not very approachable in its youth but that mellows with age.
Aging potential: 20+ years (in the case of fine Barolo)
- 2015 Bruno Giacosa Barolo La Rocche del Falletto
- 2013 Gaja Barolo Conteisa
- 2005 Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate
Why it ages so well: Vintage Champagne ages well because it is often quite high in acidity. Although it does lose effervescence as it ages, the flavors become nuttier and creamier—a quality that many wine enthusiasts love.
Aging potential: 15+ years for most top-quality Champagne houses; 25+ years for legendary vintages.
Why it ages so well: Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were picked early (before sugar levels became too high) or were grown in cooler climates usually age best because the acidity is high. You often see this quality in Old-World Cabernet. The best of these wines are also aged in oak, giving them greater long-term aging potential.
Aging potential: 10+ years for quality California Cabernet; 20+ years for quality Bordeaux blends.
- 2014 Hundred Acre Kayli Morgan Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2009 Château Léoville Poyferré
- 2007 Schrader Beckstoffer George III Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Why it ages so well: High acidity and oak aging make this one of the longest-lived wines in the world. However, aging potential depends on the producer and region. Some producers make fruit-forward wines that are meant to be drunk young, while others make very acidic wines that don’t even begin to approach maturity until they are at least ten years old.
Aging potential: At least 20 years, but some of the best vintages can age for 50+ years.
- 2015 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve
- 2010 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova
- 2010 Poggione Brunello di Montalcino
Why it ages so well: Syrah has naturally high levels of phenols (tannins and other flavor compounds). As Syrah ages, these compounds interact with one another and form new, more complex compounds. This is what makes Syrah wines taste so concentrated and multifaceted with age.
Aging potential: 15+ years depending on the region and the producer.
- 2013 Penfolds Grange Hermitage
- 2009 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
- 2005 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon
Why it ages so well: Pinot Noir isn’t naturally long-lived. To make this wine stand the test of time, producers plant vines in locations that are relatively cool in order to keep acidity levels high. They also use techniques like oak barrel aging to increase the aging potential of these wines. Generally, Pinot Noir from the relatively cool climate of Burgundy is able to age for much longer than Pinot Noir from California or even Oregon.
Aging potential: 15+ years for top-quality Oregon Pinot Noir; 20+ years for top-quality Burgundy.
- 2016 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart
- 2014 Evening Land La Source Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir
- 2012 Domaine Comte de Vogüe Musigny Vieilles Vignes
Why it ages so well: A firm structure and sharp acidity allow some of the best Riesling to age for 100 years or more. Great Riesling can actually age longer than many red wines—an unusual quality for a white variety. Some Riesling has high residual sugar levels, which not only increases aging potential but also keeps the wines balanced and prevents them from tasting too astringent.
Aging potential: 20+ years for top-quality German or Alsatian Riesling.
- 2010 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Émile Riesling
- 2006 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling
- 2005 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Auslese Goldkapsel AP 8 Riesling
Why it ages so well: This variety is so naturally high in acidity that additional residual sugar is often used to provide balance. With care and proper storage, perfectly structured Chenin Blanc wines are capable of lasting 50 or even 100 years.
Aging potential: 30+ years in high-quality vintages.
- 2017 Domaine Huët Le Mont Demi-Sec Vouvray
- 2005 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume
- 2001 Domaine des Forges Saint Aubin de Luigne SGN
Why it ages so well: Like Chenin Blanc, Sauternes ages well because it combines high acidity with high sugar levels. In the case of Sauternes, noble rot increases the residual sugar levels, which, in turn, masks some of the tart acidity—in some cases, it’s difficult to even detect acid in Sauternes because it’s so rich and honeyed.
Aging potential: 40+ years, often longer.
Why it ages so well: Fortified wines like port last for hundreds of years. This is because winemakers add spirit (a high alcohol liquor) to the wine before fermentation is complete. This stops fermentation and increases the alcohol by volume, improving the wine’s aging potential by many decades.
Aging potential: 50+ years for vintage port and other high-quality fortified wines.
Of course, these aren’t the only age-worthy wines available on the fine wine market—many varieties and styles of wine are ageable. Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson tells Gear Patrol that many high-quality wine varieties have the potential to age when you take steps to protect your bottles during the aging process. He says, “I think the number one factor to ensure a wine will age well is proper storage. This tops everything.” If you want to age wine, consider not just the wine’s variety and producer but also how you plan on storing it.
How to Buy Wine for Aging (and Store It Properly)
Before you buy any age-worthy bottles, make sure you have a safe place to store them. Full-service professional storage services are the best option for keeping bottles that have aging potential because there’s less risk of damage and spoilage than if you kept them in a home cellar or self-storage locker. A storage warehouse is maintained at precise environmental conditions, with careful temperature and humidity regulation. Bottles are also kept in secure containers that block light and prevent vibration. Under these conditions, wine can mature slowly and gracefully without any disruptions. Another benefit of using professional storage services is that you won’t be tempted to open your long-lived wines too early. If a bottle is sitting in your basement cellar, it’s easy to grab it by mistake or give in to the temptation to open it at your next dinner party. For this reason, many experienced collectors keep their best bottles out of reach.
A cellar tracking app can help you monitor how the wines in your collection are maturing.
Once you have a storage plan for your wine, you can buy your first age-worthy bottles. One way to make the most of your investment is to buy full cases of a single vintage whenever possible. This allows you to open one bottle from the case every few years to see how the vintage is maturing. You may find that a vintage is developing faster than you expected, and you can plan to open the bottles soon or resell them on the market before they are over the hill. Or, you may find that the wine is maturing much more slowly than anticipated. In this scenario, you should delay opening your next bottle or wait longer to sell. A cellar tracking app can help you monitor how the wines in your collection are maturing. Fine wine rewards patient collectors; when you give your bottles the time they need to mature fully, you’ll see just how rich, delicious, and complex these wines can become.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.