This is one of the most widely asked questions I get in the tasting room each and every day. Someone tries a wine and wants to pick up a few to ‘lay down’ for future enjoyment . . . but they want a reassurance that they can and should do this.
Now, if all I wanted to do was to sell more wine, my immediate answer would be – sure, you know you’re SUPPOSED to lay red wines down, and these will DEFINITELY last 10-20 years!!! (-:
But here’s the real truth – there is no way to know ‘how long’ a wine will ‘last’ when you lay it down – period. I’ve had wines that I ‘thought’ would age beautifully for 10-15 years only to be unpleasantly surprised that they didnt )-: And on the other hand, I’ve dug through the cellar and found bottles that I was certain were ‘dead’ only to find them not only alive, but drinking beautifully beyond their life expectancy.
To me, laying down a wine for the long term should be done for a couple of reasons. If a wine has great fruit but is overly tannic, time will probably (but not definitely) benefit that wine. Over time, the tannins will polymerize (grow into longer chains) and these longer chains are less astringent and bitter than shorter chain tannins. This assumes that you are somewhat tannin-averse and want to see your wine move in this direction.
It is also beneficial to put away wines that have ‘sentimental value’ to you. I have stashed away a couple of bottles of different wines as ‘momentos’ of a special day, a special event, a special year, etc. Will these ‘improve’? Who knows – but I’ll enjoy opening them up and ‘reliving’ something from the past.
So the next time a winemaker or wine shop tells you that a wine will ‘last 10-20 years or longer’, ask them to put it in writing and let them know that you’ll be contacting them later in the case that they were wrong – then see what they have to say (-: