If a wine is good when it's young, can it still age well?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I've noticed a trend toward making wines in a more approachable-when-young style. If a wine is good when it's young, will it still be good in 10 years?

Mike, Connecticut

Dear Mike,

Wine cellars aren't hospitals. If a wine is unbalanced in its youth, it’s not going to magically fix itself with time in the cellar. Tannins might “soften” over time, but if you don't like a tannic wine when it's young, you probably won't like it any better when it's old.

You are correct that there has been a shift to wines being much more approachable on release. There are more people drinking more wine at more moments (and with more types of foods) now than ever before. Fine wines aren’t just a luxury item anymore, requiring storage in optimal conditions before its ready to enjoy.

That said, I think most wine lovers will agree—as the ancient Greeks and Romans discovered many years ago—that when a wine has the potential to age, and when it is well-aged, it can be magnificent. Aging doesn’t make a wine better or worse, but it changes it. I always worry that people will unnecessarily age their wines without understanding how they might evolve—fruit flavors will fade and secondary notes of earth and spice will become dominant.

I think that winemakers have a lot more information at their disposal about how to make the wines they are aiming to make, and can track tannins, anthocyanins, acidity, pH and phenolics—all the components that will be affected by aging. With all of this data and better understanding of the impact of their decisions, I think it’s realistic that wines that are made and delicious now will also age into terrific wines in the future.

—Dr. Vinny

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