Dear Wine Ladies,
How does one know when or not to cellar a red wine? I have quite a few that have collected over the years in cold storage in my basement.
John, Austin, Texas
Actually quite a small percentage of red wines are produced with the intention of cellaring. In fact most wine today should be drunk within the first couple of years, or as young as possible to truly enjoy the youthful fruit and flavours. Many people make the mistake of thinking that all red wine improves with age and often discover the reality a little too late. It may well be a good idea for you to check out what you have in cold storage, and be ready for the possibility that you might have a good stock of wine vinegar on your hands for your homemade salad dressings.
There definitely are some red wines that are most worthy of lying down for a number of years, from five to upwards of twenty! A few examples of more classic wines that do benefit with some, or in certain cases extensive aging are; good Bordeaux wines, wines from the Piedmont region of Italy which would include Barolos and Barbarescos, Super Tuscan wines, some big California wines, particularly the Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as the finer wines of Burgundy.
There are many variables too that contribute to determining the age ability of wines, such as the grape variety, the region the wine comes from, the style in which the wine was made, and the vintage as well. Specific varietals that lend themselves to long-term aging in the bottle are Cabernet Sauvignon as mentioned above, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Syrah and Merlot to highlight a few. Finally your taste is also important, if you like fruity fresher wines go for youth, appropriate well aged wines will typically become more complex offering up tertiary flavours like leather, earth, tobacco.