Should Wine Be Aged?

By Winemaker Matt 
In: Wine 101

I recently took part in a tasting that revisited the 2002 vintage. It’s always exciting to see how wines have changed with age and time, and leads to the question: should you age wines at home?

People ask me all the time, “How long should I wait before opening  a Kendall-Jackson Cab?”  The short answer is that, while the wine is very enjoyable right now, it will drink best in 3-5 years from now — and continue to be wonderful over the next decade or more.

When crafting our Cabernet wines, I feel we have to tread a delicate line.  The American wine-drinking public is fond of young wines with intense fruit.  Few, if any, bottles are laid down for aging.  So we want to bottle a wine that is both approachable in its youth, and will soften and evolve without deteriorating too quickly with age.

Given the mountain sources, many of our Cabernets can age beautifully over time.  The wines require aeration or decanting in their youth to really show the full character of the fruit and the breadth of the palate.  The minerality of the Grand Reserve Cab, for example, screams through in the early years, overshadowing the fruit until properly allowed to breathe.  With time, that softens and integrates into the wine. The 2005 wines are just starting to open up.

In many cases, the reward of waiting to open that special bottle is well worth it.  It takes patience and proper storage space, of course. But there’s a way around waiting for so long; I suggest that people buy a case.  Why? Because then it is possible to enjoy a bottle or two while they are young  and still lay some down to be enjoyed over the next decade.  Personally, I’m getting ready to lay down a case of the 2008 Grand Reserve Cabernet right now.

Most white wines are meant to be consumed young.  Their most interesting quality, their fruit character, fades with age.  The exception to this is some Rieslings and dessert wines, which can take on tertiary characters even more interesting than their initial, primary fruit.

Whichever you prefer, young wines or wines with some bottle age, there is something for everyone.  That is the beauty of the world of wine.  Tasting an older vintage is like a trip down memory lane that gives us the opportunity to time travel when we pop the cork.

Back to that tasting of the 2002 vintage.  The wines were terrific.  It was exciting to see how well they were holding up.  In hindsight, it is hard to believe these wines are nearly 10 years old.  Many still displayed the exuberance of youth, with chewy, dense tannins that will undoubtedly persist boldly in the bottle for many years to come.

So lay down a few bottles and, trust me, you’ll enjoy being able to reminisce with family and friends, because after all, sharing wine is the best part.  Cheers.