Q. How long should I age my wine?
A. In an ideal world, we would all have a large, cool, underground cellar stocked with an array of fine wines slowly maturing. The reality, sadly, is different. Space is at a premium in most modern houses and apartments and finding a place to stash your wine can be a challenge.
Happily, the vast majority of wines are ready to drink the day they are bottled, and most are at their best in their first year or two of life. This applies to red wines and especially to whites and rosés.
Generally it is only the great and very expensive wines that will improve with age, and even these are made in a much more approachable style than previously. There are some mid-priced wines will improve for a year or two, and if you have the space, it can be fun to stash a few bottles away; you will be surprised how quickly time passes. Riesling, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Semillon are the most age worthy white wines and Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo, the best red wines for laying down for a year or two.
Aged wines do taste different. In general they are smoother and develop complex secondary flavours. They can be an acquired taste, so try a few mature wines before you embark on a cellar-building exercise. A few wines, such as Rioja are sold ready-aged. A Rioja Reserva must be aged for at least three years in barrel and bottle, and a Gran Reserva five years.
If you are going to age some wine, store it somewhere cool and dark where the temperature doesn’t vary too much. Wine doesn’t like bright lights and warm temperatures.
If you intend building up a collection of serious wines, it is worth investing in a temperature and humidity controlled wine cooler . But I have relied upon an unheated, north facing room for many years without any problem.
So, fine wines aside, in most cases, you don’t really need to age your wine at all. An Australian producer once told me he laid his wine down by keeping it in the garage until the weekend!