How to evaluate the ageing potential of a wine?

The wines have the specificity of being enjoyable after several years in the bottle. Some, like Beaujolais Nouveau, are best consumed in their youth, not to say immediately in this case. Others, like a Grand Vin de Pauillac, are generally not to be opened in their first years. Not at all, in fact! Most of the time, a 20 years ageing period is necessary… which is not always obvious! So how do you evaluate the ageing potential of a wine?

The criteria to consider for a good evaluation of the ageing potential

To determine that a wine can have a good ageing potential, we need to focus on the wine’s constituents. However, even if we list these different components, it doesn’t guarantee that the wine will necessarily behave well over time. These are general considerations, but they do have the advantage of being based on proven and recognized trends. Also, it is not because one of these constituents is below what it should be that the wine will not necessarily age well. It often depends on the whole.

Alcohol level

The level of alcohol is a first indicator. The higher it is, the longer the wine can be kept. Alcohol acts as a preservative. It is also used in some cosmetics, acting as a barrier to bacteria.

The sugar

Sugar is a great preservative. Perhaps even the most effective! If you want to keep your wine for a long time and want to reduce the probability of feeling that you have missed out on the wine, turn to sweet wines! The sweet wines of Sauternes are an excellent example. They can age for more than 50 years without any problem. And so can other great sweet wines like Tokai in Hungary, Coteaux du Layon in the Loire Valley, and many German and Alsatian wines made from Riesling or Gewürztraminer grapes.


Acidity in wine is essential! It actually rhymes with freshness. A wine needs acidity, freshness to stay lively. So to go the distance a high level of acidity is a good thing, because it is likely to allow the wine to keep its freshness, its “pep” through the years.


The tannic matter is of capital importance, especially for red wines. The more tannins there are in the wine, the more time it will take for the wine to reach its peak. Powerful tannins need time to polish, to open up, and to harmonize with the other components present in the wine. This is one of the easiest factors to recognize: a wine that is too tannic? Give it time!

Aromatic intensity often rhymes with good ageing potential

The aromatic intensity, just like the concentration, is also very important! The more powerful and concentrated the aromas are, the more likely they are to last over time and evolve favorably. From fresh fruits, they will progressively evolve towards dried fruits, thus offering, with the mixture of the two, a very appreciable aromatic complexity.

Ageing potential of wine: balance is everything

Of course, a wine does not necessarily need all these compounds to evolve well over time. The ideal is also to find a global balance so that one compound does not take precedence over all the others. It is an extremely delicate exercise that allows to distinguish great wines… and also great winemakers!

Some wines also have the particularity of being counter-examples and of behaving very well over time. Don’t think, for example, that a red wine from Burgundy, which generally has a light tannic matter, cannot resist time. These wines are indeed fine and delicate, but some are bluffing at this game. They reveal themselves after several decades, with an exceptional complexity and consistency. Generally they have a pronounced acidity and aromatic intensity, which may be the reason.

Good to know

Indeed, it is necessary to determine when the most suitable moment will be. You will also have to be patient and have enough storage space to offer the right conditions for such wines to flourish. This often requires an additional financial effort, for example the purchase of an air-conditioned cellar.

However, depending on the appellation, some wines are best consumed young, while others require a longer ageing period. In some cases, aeration of such wines can also be a judicious alternative and could help you if you do not wish to wait too long.

So when?

Patience in the world of wine is often a virtue! Determining a wine’s ageing potential and its ideal tasting range will also depend on the aromas you like to find in a wine. If you like fresh fruit notes, choose a close opening. If you prefer more evolved aromas, of dried fruits, undergrowth, mushrooms, leather… the more you will have to wait for these notes which develop with the work of time. Finally, if you open a bottle and the wine seems closed, try to aerate it with your Aveine aerator! A properly aerated bottle, even when young, can tell a beautiful story.


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