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Aging Wine: When to Sip vs. When to Cellar

Time is a fascinating thing. It heals all wounds, it’s money, it’s wasted, it’s well spent, and most importantly, it results in the phenomenon called age. Age can help or harm in many instances in life. We as humans are always chasing the fountain of youth that ultimately leaves us missing out on the great things right in front of us! When it comes to wine, age is also good or bad depending on what you want time to do for you. Let’s dive into the who, what, when, where and why’s of aging wine.

At Market Wines, we source quality wines from small family producers making them accessible and affordable, because we care about what you drink and where it comes from! Though Calgary isn’t the most ideal wine growing region, we love to support the little guys with good values from around the world. We host a variety of events from sit-down tastings to festivals for a fun and knowledgeable date-night, celebration, or just for fun! We’re all about sharing stories at Market Wines, and we love to be a part of your story through your family dinners, quality time with friends, celebrations or casual Tuesday nights. Our favourite part of the job is finding you the perfect wine for whatever the occasion, or lack thereof! 


What Does Aging Do to a Wine?

You hear often that some wines need some time to age before you drink them in order to taste their best, but what does that actually do other than test your patience? Wine can contain three different types of flavour characteristics. Primary characteristics are the fruity notes you can find on most wines, which are caused by the grape itself. Secondary characteristics come from winemaking techniques, such as oak, lees aging, and malolactic conversion. Finally tertiary characteristics develop during the aging process. While your wine ages, it can develop complex notes that you wouldn’t find in a young wine. These notes can be different depending on where the wine chills out during this time. If the wine is aging in the barrel before bottling, it is exposed to small amounts of oxygen for however long it is aging. This can give the wine coffee and caramel notes. If the wine is being aged in a bottle, either per winemaker’s choice or in your wine cellar, it can develop complex notes of mushroom and honey. As a wine develops, the primary fruit characteristics can also be altered, giving a wine dried or cooked fruit notes. 

Aging a wine can also soften harsh edges on a bold and flavourful wine. Time allows acidity and tannins to soften, making the wine smooth and more approachable. For example, high quality German Rieslings need to see some age to help relax any volatile acidity. French Bordeaux and bold red wines with harsh tannins will soften with age. With time, the tannins in a red wine will start to separate from the liquid and sink to the bottom of the bottle, causing sediment. Sediment is just tannins that are clumped together which can easily be filtered out at home.

Apart from developing tertiary characteristics and softening acid and tannin, age can also change the colour in a wine. Aged wines tend to develop a slightly orange or brown characteristic, whether it’s red or white. Professionally, in white wine, it is typically labeled as amber. When red wine changes colour due to age, it is called ‘bricking’.


How to Properly Store a Wine

If you do have the self control to age your wine, it’s important to store it properly to avoid any faults. Poor storage can negatively affect the flavour of your wine, causing the wine to lose vibrancy and freshness, and cause it to taste dull and stale. Some wines are more sensitive than others! When aging your wine, the temperature should be cool and constant. Think hundreds of years ago in a castle dungeon, around 10-15 degrees celsius. Wines with corks are a bit more temperamental than wines under screw caps. If your aging wine has a cork, store it on its side to keep the cork in contact with the liquid, keeping it moist. If the cork dries out, it can shrink and let oxygen into the wine. Did you know that wine is kind of like a vampire? It doesn’t like being in direct light while it’s aging. No, it won’t sparkle, but it can become light-struck, ruining the chemical compounds in your wine and causing all sorts of faults. To be even more high maintenance, wine also doesn’t like to be shaken around, so make sure it’s stored somewhere free of vibrations. Let your wine get dusty!


Do All Wines Need Age?

High School, College Basketball, that one trip to Fiji, 29… everyone has their prime! So does wine, and not all wine benefits from aging. All roses and inexpensive reds and whites are meant for immediate consumption. Try not to forget about these wines after a couple years past its vintage, or they’ll start to taste tired. 

Some recognized wines are legally required to be aged before even making it to the shelves at Market Wines or anywhere else. An example of this is Rioja. Rioja Crianza must be aged for two years with at least one in barrels, Riserva must be aged for 3 years with one year in barrels and six months in bottles, and Gran Reserva must be aged for 5 years with 2 years in barrels and 2 years in bottles.

If you are considering whether or not you should age a wine, think about its tannin, acidity, alcohol level and sweetness. To survive medium to long term aging, wines need enough tannin, acidity,  alcohol and/or sweetness and have flavours that are worthwhile developing. 

Some white wines suitable for cellaring are Chenin Blanc, Bourgogne Blanc, Vouvray, Bordeaux Blanc, Viognier and Riesling. White wines can age anywhere between 2-30 years, but a good rule of thumb is the higher the classification, the longer you can forget about it in your cellar.

Some red wines suitable for cellaring are Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Merlot and Termpranillo. The timeline for aging reds can also vary, but most ageable reds can be thoroughly enjoyed from 5-10 years. After 20 years, your reds may start to lose their structure. 



Though decanting does not give the same effect as aging your wine for decades, it can help for those with little willpower. Decanting a young wine for a couple of hours exposes it to oxygen, which can speed run your wine through some development of those tertiary flavours and aromas and calm down any aggressive tannins. Decanting is also important for wines that have been aging for a long time to filter out some of the deposit formed during the aging process.


Wines to Sip Vs. Wines to Cellar:

Gregoris Pinot Grigio

This wine is light and crisp and hard to resist. Thank goodness it doesn’t need any age and is good to go as is. Aging this wine could result in the acidity softening too much and it becoming flabby and dull, which would be a shame for such a lively young wine! 


Lambert Clos David

Good quality chenin blanc from the Loire Valley develops beautiful dried fruit characteristics after some age. Vouvray is another great example of an ageable white, which is also Chenin Blanc.


Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc has enough going on as a very aromatic grape variety that it doesn’t need tertiary characteristics to make it more interesting. Enjoy Sauvignon Blanc young and fresh!


Chavy Bourgogne Blanc

White Burgundy has enough texture and elegance to stand up well with some years under its belt. The creaminess of the Chavy Bourgogne Blanc is accentuated and its lemon notes start to taste like lemon meringue pie filling. 


Latido de Sara Garnacha

Garnacha or grenache could be drunk young or with age. The Latido de Sara Garnacha is fresh, fruity, medium bodied and is at its best in its youth, but a grenache from the Rhone Valley in France would be wise to age, such as a Chateaneuf-du-Pape.


Ant Moore Pinot Noir

Pinot noir is typically light enough to be enjoyed when young. It doesn’t usually have enough tannin to stand up to substantial aging, but there are always exceptions. A red Burgundy Pinot Noir is famous for its tertiary characteristics that develop with age. 


Tedeschi Amarone

Amarone is a great red wine to age due to its bold and tannic nature. This wine becomes velvety smooth, but the 2019 vintage is already approaching its prime and drinking beautifully this year.


Come Visit us at Market Wines!

Whether you are practicing your will power or just wanting to pick up some wines to forget about for ten years, come visit us at any Market Wines Calgary locations to stock your wine cellar – or bedroom closet – there’s no judgment here. Pick up two bottles of your favourite wine and drink one now and one in ten years to see what kind of magic can happen! 

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