Let Wine Age Gracefully

Dear Wine Ladies,

We recently opened up a 1993 Barbaresco from Italy which we were very disappointed in. It was given to us about eight years ago and at the time we were told these wines, along with Barolos are known for their ability to age for up to twenty years! Are they? How do we know when to open our wines and if it’s too late?


Dear Sharon,

Twenty years may be a little optimistic for Barbaresco’s but not so for Barolos. Although both come from the region of Piemonte in North West Italy Barolos definitely have the greater capacity to age longer. Having said that the township of Neive, (where your wine was produced) located in Piemonte is particularly well known and respected for producing longer living Barbarescos.

When it comes to deciding on the optimal time to open a bottle of wine, and hopefully avoid disappointment, there are certain variables that should always be considered. The vintage for one, particularly for wines that come from climates that experience more variability, or marginal climates such as Burgundy, Germany and even Ontario. The better the vintage, the greater capacity for longer aging. Proper storage conditions are also very important for maintaining a wine’s good health. Insufficient humidity, inappropriate temperature and/or temperature swings can all contribute to a wine’s early deterioration. A wine that is stored in a cellar that is too high in temperature for example, can accelerate the aging process significantly. The fill or the “ullage” of the bottle is also telling; if the space between the wine and the cork is too great, chances are the wine is oxidized, and once opened the condition of the cork and the color of the wine can provide clues as well as to it’s health.

We’ve talked about the importance of condition, but what about personal taste? As wines age the bouquet and flavours evolve, the fruit dissipates and more complex aromas develop with smells that not everyone is that familiar with or necessarily enjoys. Often times we hold onto to our wines too long and are disappointed when we finally get around to opening them, even though the wine may still be perfectly sound.

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