We’ve created a visual guide to help you judge whether your French Varietal white wine can be aged. The graph uses bottles of varying length to indicate how long a type of wine can be aged. As with our “Aging Red Wine” post, the Optimal period for aging the wine is listed on or near the label. The ages indicating whether the wine is too young (or Immature) or too old (or Tired) are also indicated near the bottle.
The difference between an age worthy white wine and a red wine is that one of the main ingredients for aging, tannins, are much lower in white wines. Tannins can come from barrels but the skins and seeds of the grapes provide the biggest source. Because white wine is removed from contact with the skins and seeds much sooner than red wines, there is little chance for the tannins to be imparted to the wines. That means white wines will need to rely far more heavily on acid and/or alcohol levels to allow them to reach a ripe and pleasant old age. That being said, aging white wines is still dependent on the same three factors as aging red wines:
- What type of wine is it?
Is this type of white wine meant to be aged? Few wine enthusiasts know it but one of the most age-worthy wines in the world are dry Rieslings. The higher acid content allows many Rieslings to continue to improve over 15 to 20 years. Many west coast Rieslings are much sweeter, which almost always means less acid. Chardonnays that are aged in new oak will pick up more tannins than other white wines and can also improve for 10 to 15 years. Crisper and fruitier whites will quickly degrade over just a few years.
- How was the wine made?
This gets back to the sugar vs. acid question. If the white wine was made for mass appeal, it probably had much of the acid removed so it shouldn’t be aged at all. If the wine was made to allow the fruit and the acid to balance, there is a good chance to improve that white wine with age (for at least a couple of years). If you are going to attempt to age white wine, we recommend drinking on the young side of mature rather than letting it get over the hill.
- What is the ideal storage temperature?
Aging white wine and aging red wine have one absolute in common; The temperature must be stable. Wide temperature swings will move air in and out of the bottle causing it to oxidize mush more quickly. Lower temperatures like mid 50s to very low 60s are best, but if that is not available, at least find a spot that doesn’t have a lot of temperature fluctuations.
To learn more about each varietal, visit our Varietals page and click through for serving temperature, origins, and more. Whether you prefer light crisp white wines or deep flavors, make sure that you are getting the most from them by storing and aging them correctly.
Cheers from Winery-Sage.com!