While it is important knowing which wines generally benefit from aging, it is also just as important to know which wines you can enjoy from the moment you pop the cork. The truth about wine is that over 80% of the world's different varieties are designed to be consumed soon after being bottled. Only a small percentage of wine is designed to be complex enough to not only last decades but to taste better after decades. So how do you determine which wines to drink while young and which to age? As with aging wine, storage, complexity, price and wine variety all play important roles in determining which wines to enjoy today or which to put away in the cellar for a later date.
Wine Storage and Young Wines
While the vast majority of wine is best enjoyed young, it will still benefit from proper storage in a wine cellar or wine refrigerator no matter how brief a time it may stay there. All wine whether young or old needs the proper storage environment to ensure flavor is kept and wine is not prematurely aged by heat, excessive light, or motion. So whether you are planning on consuming wine the next day and want to properly store and chill it or you are you have purchased a case from a vineyard and want to make sure it is kept in the right environment the entire time it takes you to drink it, wine cellars and wine refrigerators are simply the way to go. For more on deciding on which method of wine storage is right for you, discover BeverageFactory.com's exclusive buying guides: Why Buy: A Wine Refrigerator and Why Buy: A Wine Cellar.
Complexity and Drinking Wine
Young wine may imply to some that the wine is inferior or simple, this is not the case. Some wines simply lend themselves to early consumption based on the amounts of fruit, acidity and tannins found in the wine. Most of the world's wines will not benefit from decades of storage. Generally, wines that benefit from years or decades in the wine cellar do so because they are truly complex with just the right balance of fruit, acidity and tannins. Trading in their youthful appeal of fresh fruit for deep aromas and layered and subtle complexity, these great wines are sometimes too tannic to even be enjoyed early. Some of these wines can still be immensely enjoyed while young but will also develop new characteristics as they age. It will be up to you to decide at what point in the wine's life you enjoy it most. If you have multiple bottles of a wine you plan on aging, the best thing to do is open a bottle at some point or another to both see how it tastes and to have a comparison point for when you open the same bottle months or years in the future. For more on aging wine, discover Learn about: Wines You Should Age.
Price and Drinking Wine
Now the question you are left with is which wine varieties are as good or if not better now as opposed to 10 years from now. As a general rule of thumb, inexpensive wines are meant to be consumed within one or two years of purchase. Age these wine's too long, and you will be left with a wine that is past its prime. Basically, whether you have yourself a Cabernet or a Pinot Noir, if it's under $15 you can enjoy your bottles best if consumed within a year and no more than a year.
In the price range of $15 to $25, your wine will most likely benefit from up to 5 years of aging or you can enjoy it the day you buy it. It will taste great both ways, it is simply a matter of personal preference in deciding whether you like a fruitier tasting wine or a more complex leather like mouth feel.
When you get into the range of $25 and up, you are almost guaranteed that your wine will age well. Some wines in this price range will gain character and complexity and loose any bitter tannin taste for up to a decade or more. If you are unsure how a wine in this price range will age or have questions as to how long you want to age your wine, consult a local wine shop.
Wine Variety and Drinking Wine
Certain grape varieties are more prone to drinking and enjoying when young than others. For example, Beaujolais made from the Gamay grape is fresh and grape flavored, low in tannin and easy to drink when young and definitely tastes best when consumed young. Some wines, like Pinot Noir, are absolutely delicious when consumed young but can age too taking on more earthy characteristics with time. Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are wines usually designed to be consumed while young, light, crisp, and refreshing.