Do White Wines and Champagnes Get Better with Age?
When it comes to pop culture clichés, few are used more frequently than comparing something to fine wine, stating that it gets "better with age". In the world of white wine, however, this is actually a myth. The vast majority of white wines do not get better with age.
White Wine and the Aging Process
Typically, only the very best wines improve with aging, meaning that most wines are available to be consumed immediately. In fact, some suggest that only one percent of wine is meant for aging. While red wines are usually the best candidates for improving with age, there are various whites and champagnes that will improve with age as well. However, even the whites that do improve over time will not last as long as reds. Generally speaking, five to seven years is a decent estimate for aging an average white wine, though some whites can age for around a decade.
White Wines That Age with Elegance
White wines that age gracefully include Bordeaux, many German white wines (Riesling, Gewurztraminer), Burgundies and dessert wines like Sauternes. The most expensive Chardonnays will typically give you great results when cellaring, offering added richness and complexity to the wine in the process. Burgundies produce these benefits most frequently, but the best Australian and Californian Chardonnays are capable of these benefits as well. Rieslings, on the other hand, can age for a long time, and offer some of the best aging due to the remarkable complexity they will produce. For their part, dessert wines such as Sauturnes, Tokaji and the aforementioned Riesling are capable of aging and improving for decades in the best cases.
Finally, top quality Champagne is capable of offering enhanced flavors and aromas when put through a proper aging process. Still, be aware that they can lose their sparkling nature, making aged Champagne an exciting, yet acquired, taste. The top whites are capable of aging far longer than the "average" white wine, but do remember that 99 percent of wine is meant to be consumed immediately. So, whether you choose self-restraint while patiently aging your wine or you choose immediate gratification, remember that it is good company and great conversation that makes wine such a great part of our lives.