Long Lived White Wines

It’s a myth that white wines need to be enjoyed young. However some are better in maturity.

How often do you seek out an aged white wine? Even the savviest wine drinkers are often unsure about keeping whites around for years, worried about how the flavours will evolve. A wine age worthy has little to do with its colour. It’s the balance of style, acidity and concentration that determines whether a white wine will improve and gain complexity over time.

One of the white wines most famous for its ageing potential is definitely Chardonnay. White Burgundy is the classic example. Chardonnay is used to make everything from crisp and simple Bourgogne Blanc to the dynamic, highly concentrated wines from places like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Mâconnais, Alsace and Bordeaux. Other Chardonnays including high-quality versions from California, Oregon and Washington can be ideal candidates. Other aromatic grapes like Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Sémillon, which are often blended with Sauvignon Blanc, also have excellent ageing potential. Other regions known for wines that age gracefully include Australia, Chile and Argentina. Spanish regions like Rioja, Montilla-Moriles and Jerez offer whites that will sing with your supper 10–20 years down the line.

Cool climate wines, which tend to have lower alcohol and higher acidity, are often prime candidates for ageing, Look for wines with highly concentrated fruit flavours. That often means grapes that have hung on the vine a long time, which allows the grapes to develop more flavour.

From a chemistry standpoint, there are three characteristics that help wine age: the level of acidity, the amount and quality of tannins, and, for sweet whites, the sugar content. That’s why wines with higher acidity tend to age better: the acidity acts as a preservative.

Late-harvest sweet wines can also age so well, because both acid and sugar are preservatives.

In general, white wines will not age as long as reds. Since they contain little to no tannin, they oxidize more quickly. In general, expect high-quality, ageable white wines to age for five to 15 years. To ensure they don’t oxidize, they should be stored like red wines, in a consistently dark, cool place, such as a wine fridge or basement closet. The ideal temperature is between 55 to 60 degrees. 

While patience is certainly a virtue (and a risk) that comes with enjoying aged white wines, the reward is well worth the wait.

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