Do white wines age well?

Do white wines age well?

Most whites are not made for keeping, lacking the reds' natural tannins and acidity

A.J. Linn


Friday, 3 November 2023, 18:11


Most wine lovers, particularly those for whom a bottle of well-preserved vintage red is the greatest drink in the world, consider ageing to be crucial to their enjoyment.

Unfortunately, this point of view, while being generally correct, tends to lead to many wines being cellared for too long. How many times have we tentatively selected a dusty bottle from the rack and, on drawing the cork, found it to be 'over the hill', or simply 'off'. Hopefully it will not yet have reached the vinegar stage, allowing us to at least get some minimal pleasure from it. From personal experience I would hazard a guess that a third of very old wines we drink have been stored for too long before opening.

But why do we only age red wines? Is it because we have this belief that all whites should be drunk young? Or is it because we think white wines do not have a place alongside reds in our wine store? In many ways it is true that most whites are not made for keeping, lacking the reds' natural tannins and acidity.

White wines with natural ageing potential include vintage champagne, white burgundies of the Chardonnay variety and white Riojas. Portugal's Arinto and German Riesling are also keepers.

Rioja scores well because the whites, above all those made with the native Viura grape, are usually blended with other varieties and often aged in oak, this not being normal practice for many mature whites. The renowned Conde de los Andes bodega just released a 1983 white Rioja which surprisingly tastes fresh and lively.

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