In general, certain grape varieties take to aging better than others. Tannins and acid are the deciding factor between which wines will enjoy a long cellar life and which should be enjoyed in their youth. Well-structured wines with high tannins and acid are stable, giving them a longer window in which they’ll soften, smooth, and grow in complexity.

In general, the following wines are ideal for long cellar storage:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Vintage Port
  • Madeira
  • Riesling
  • Rioja
  • Bordeaux
  • Chateauneuf du pape
  • Saunternes
  • Nebiolo
  • Sangiovese
  • Chenin blanc
  • Syrah

This is far from an exhaustive list. However, while wine variety plays a large role in what produces a well-structured wine fit for aging, other factors are also a part of what allows a wine to age. The grape variety, growing conditions, winemaking style, region, and site all contribute to how a wine ages in the bottle.

The Qualities of a Wine That Ages Well

Aside from variety, if you’re considering what wines to keep in your cellar, there are two traits to consider:

  • Acidity: Wines high in acidity live a longer life than wines with low acid content. Over time, the acids flatten out, allowing the wine’s other flavor profiles to come forward.
  • Tannin: Tannins come from grape seeds, skins, and stems as well as oak. However, it’s grape tannins that contribute to a wine’s aging ability.

How Long to Age Wines

In general, red wines will age longer than white wines, and the red wines with more structure will last longer than red wines with lower tannins. While aging will always depend on the specific traits of your variety and vintage, there are some rules of thumb you can rely on.

Use these guidelines when aging red wine:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: 10-20+ years
  • Pinot Noir: 5-10 years
  • Merlot: 5-10+ years
  • Syrah: 5-10+ years

Of course, being able to age your wine doesn’t mean you have to. Wine is a living thing, evolving from year to year. The point of aging wine is to enjoy it as it changes and grows over time. It’s not about making the wine better, only different. Whether you’re enjoying, say, our Hawk’s Prey Cabernet Sauvignon or our flagship vintage Voir Dire, it will be an excellent experience whether you open it today or a decade from now.

In the end, as winemakers, our role is to make the most of what the land provides. The ideal winemaking process—from vinification to barrel maturation—only highlights what is already exceptional: the terroir itself. That’s our philosophy at Theorem Vineyards and what we seek to do with every vintage and every bottle.

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