Is it true that wine gets better as it gets older?

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Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it true that wine gets better as it gets older?

—Saksham, Delhi, India

Dear Saksham,

The short answer is no.

The more complex answer is that some wines evolve with time, and that evolution can be fascinating and delicious. It’s not like they start off as stinkers and transform into something special in the cellar. Wines that age well taste good upon release. It’s just that their older versions can be really compelling in a different way. It’s been a while since I’ve typed it, but one of my favorite mantras is: A wine cellar is not a hospital.

A wine cellar is ideal for allowing wine to evolve over time, but most important is a consistent, cool temperature (about 55° F) out of the way of light and free from vibrations or other disturbances. So if you find a really old bottle of wine in somebody's garage or attic, it's probably not a delicious hidden gem. It’s probably just a keepsake.

Finally, if you’ve never had a well-aged, older bottle of wine, you might find that the flavors of an older wine are not to your taste. That's pretty common! Young wines tend to have bright, fresh fruit flavors. Those bright fruit flavors (and color) start to fade over time, and by age 10, they've usually evolved into more cooked or stewed fruit flavors, with earthy tones will emerging. It might not taste very much like it did when it was released—aged wines can be an acquired taste.

So please do not age your wines just because some folks like to romanticize very old wines. There's not much sense in cellaring wines for decades unless you like the taste or decades-old wine.

—Dr. Vinny

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