Hello, bonjour, and welcome to your new Bonner Private Wines video. I'm guessing you, like I, have been released to the market a few years ago. It seems like yesterday really that we were turning 20. Right. But let's say that we've matured a little since. So you and I know that people get better with age as we have, and hopefully this process will, of course, continue for a while for us (touch wood). But is it the same for wine? 

It is a common saying that wine gets better with age, but is it actually true? How which what, when? Beyond the answer to the simple question, which is one of the most commonly asked by people who actually wonder about the magic of wine beyond the simple question “Do all wines get better with age”?

This question asks several other questions, so let's answer them simply. 


Do All Wines Get Better with Age?

Let me start with a little somewhat personal anecdote. All along my 20 plus year career as a wine professional, I've regularly been asked online or offline about the price of a bottle of wine by people who had found a few old bottles in their grandpa's cellar after a succession, or heard the dads bragging about these 40 year old Bordeaux and Burgundies and Napa wines he's been storing and treasuring for all those years.

The truth, though, is that unlike people, all wines are not born equal. 

The simple answer to our simple question of the day is no. All wines do not get better with age. Absolutely not. It could even be argued that most wines that are sold every day, the majority of them won't particularly benefit from aging, at least not ten plus years or four decades.

This is clearly a bit of a mess. Probably entertained by wine industry people, sommeliers and wine retailers, maybe to help selling a few more bottles, I guess. There's wine and age worthy wines. There's a reason we talk about some wines being age worthy because all of them are not. It's like everything really. There are degrees of quality in wine and age worthiness is one key component to what we call quality.

Some things are built to last. Others aren't like a piece of furniture. As one simple example, there's one made in China or Sweden, perhaps made to last ten or 15 years at best and is one and bound from old oak trees that will serve for centuries. I'll give you that it's less obvious to tell the difference between two bottles of wine.

Obviously one that can age a lot and one that cannot. It's hard to tell from the outside, but let me shed a bit of a light on how to find out for you here. 


Which Wines Age Well? White & Rosé

And let's start with a few wine styles that we all know, you and I, that they're not meant to be aged. 

Most rosé wines, with rare exceptions, really aren't meant to be aged and quite frankly, don't age very well. Those have delicate youthful flavors that quickly fade away, say within two or three years max, after which most of the fruity aromas are simply gone, and those otherwise lively wines that we enjoy turn flabby and not very pleasant if you store them for too long. 

Same goes with most cheap or affordable whites. What we enjoy with those are simple up front, fruity, grassy and delicate floral elements to those and those fade away very quickly.

A few white wines can be aged very successfully. Those have generally been matured in oak barrels during the winemaking process. They made from better grapes to start with and then somewhat prepared through oak maturation to be more resilient to aging. Aged white wines are less about the fruit flavors with more spices. Nutty notes, walnut, a bit waxy and so on.

So we don't expect the same profile from an older white than from a young wine. Some oak aged chardonnays, the burgundies, some white bordeaux's and a few more age really well, and will probably be no surprise to you that those rather are on the pricey side of the white wine spectrum. More expensive often means better ageworthiness as far as white wines go.


Which Wines Age Well? The Reds

Those were quite obvious and you probably already knew that. So let's talk about reds, where really most misconceptions happen as a basic rule. Essentially, cheap reds don't age very well. Let's say that a sub 15 or sub $20 bottle of red wine, just like a rose or a cheap white wine, is not meant to be aged because they're all about the upfront fruity flavors.

Again, there's no complexity there to start with. There's no backbone of tannins to sustain the wine, no spine of complex savory aroma. So once the fruit has faded away after, say, 3 to 5 years, those wines have nothing left in them. They're shadows of themselves, bones without the flesh on them. Wine, skeletons, I'm tempted to say, not the enjoyable type you want to spend the night with.

When I've had people sending photos of old wine bottles they had uncovered in their grandpa's cellar. As I was saying, more often than not, those were cheap wines, including cheap Bordeaux. Sometimes some old top Bordeaux wines can fetch thousands of dollars after a few decades. But you can also buy very cheap bottles of Bordeaux. Right now you can find one at your local shop for $15, let's say, and a cheap bottle of red, even from Bordeaux, doesn't turn into $1,000 bottle, no matter how long you wait for it. Just like a bottle of bottom shelf supermarket Napa wine from 20 years ago is probably really hardly drinkable today, so it's worth nothing to anybody. Wine is magic, but not all have been blessed with a forever young spell.

And that's the cheap reds out of the way. When you get into wines that cost 25, 30, 40, 50, $50, then you can start expecting more resilience out of your vino or wines are not going to be equal in there. But generally speaking, most of those are going to be quite serious vino as they would have been aged in some oak, been treated particularly well during the winemaking process, selecting vineyards from top quality source, less mass production techniques as well, lower yields from the vineyards, more concentrated, more balanced wines.

So you can taste some spices in there beyond just the fruit, some earthiness, a bit of coffee, a bit of toffee, a bit of oak. Essentially. They're not only about the fruit flavors, so they're going to last for longer once the fruit has dissipated, which will take longer because they're more balanced to start with. When the fruit has going away, well, you will still retain some interesting delicate features into the wine, the earthy characters, the toffee, the cooked fruit, the meatiness.

All of this will remain after some aging, so you can expect mid-range reds to age really well and remain pleasing for around ten, 15 years or so often. Actually, they will get a little smoother and quite a lot better after ten years because tannins get softer and the complex savory background intensifies, the wines open up and bloom a 40 $50 bottle of Bordeaux, for example, is considerably better.

After ten years of aging. That's proven. Doesn't need to be the most expensive wine to get better for ten years. Then all the expensive wines say about $50, although there's no really hard threshold there when you get into this category. Generally, you're not only paying for a nicely crafted bottle of wine, you know, paying only for the barrel aging.

You're not only paying for the vineyard selection and all the process, you're also paying for the reputation of the producer. You're paying extra because this estate has been making high end wines for many years, and it's been proven by time in the past that this particular winery's wines do get better with age. People have tasted all vintages of this cuvée, critics have reported how good they become after ten, 15, 20 years or more. The producer knows it, connoisseurs know it as well, therefore those wines command a premium for ageworthiness. 

You pay for, when you purchases a bottle of that wine, the price of a winery's reputation, the price of vintage consistency as well. And this is exactly precisely why the price of wine is well correlated to its age worthiness, because the market goes up for wines that have proven they can age really well.

This precise correlation of price and aging potential is why I talk here in this very video about wines quality being related to price. 


Why Do Some Wines Age Better than Others?

But now to the $1 million question why certain wines aged better than others? The truth is we don't exactly know, at least scientifically. We haven't found like one molecule in particular that would render wines more suited to aging. Well. We haven't even found the combination of molecules. 

Some have pointed to the concentration of tannins because tannina are antioxidants. So they protect the wines from oxidation and aging. Right. But some pinot noirs which are very light in tannins, like Burgundy, for example, can actually age fantastically for decades. We all know that. We've all I mean, we've tasted that. A lot of us have. It's proven. 

So tannic concentration is not the answer there. 

It seems, to put it simply, that balance is the key here. Some wines have a particular chemical balance; the body, the acidity, the type and structure of their tannins, the oaky aromas, the fruit flavors, the thousands and thousands of molecules in their composition form a harmonious whole.

They all work together in balance, think of the engine of a car as a comparison. If every component is precisely engineered and precisely crafted, the engine will last forever. But if one shaft sticks out well, the engine will break. At some point, those balanced wines not only taste better today. Thanks to the coherence, but they will also age better.

They will better with age they will do because of this balance. And fortunately we haven't cracked the code, the equation that explains age worthiness. But we know simply from experience that certain wines made on certain soils, from certain vineyards, made with higher winemaking standards and finer oak cetera, essentially those mature more favorably. And there is a secret there.

But not because sommeliers and wine professionals or researchers have been hiding the truth from you. But because wine has been keeping this a secret to us so far, we know empirically how to make great wine, but we don't really know why. 

And on this final note, I'll leave it here for today. Thanks for watching and I will see you soon in the wonderful world of vino. Cheers.

Bonner Private Wine Partnership