Article - RareWine Academy

How Long Can A Wine Be Stored And When Is It Ready To Drink?

The best wines can be stored for more than 100 years, but most great wines will reach their peak before they turn 50 years old. Find out if your wine is ready to drink now...

What Is Crucial For How Long One Can Store Wine?

Wine storage and potential is an issue with many nuances. Among the most important factors that influence the wine's potential are, among other things, grape variety, area, vintage, and not least the producer. In this article, we assume that all wines are stored under optimal conditions; dark, at approx. 13 degrees Celcius and with a good 70 % humidity.

In order for a wine to be matured, the wine must have the right components in it, for preservation. The obvious factors for preserving wine are alcohol, sugar, acid, and tannin.

Unfortunately, it is not so simple that one can simply measure the four elements and thus make a conclusion. Often, several minor things can come into play, especially the intangible factor; balance.

Historically, red wine from Bordeaux has been a classic wine to mature. In old vintages, the; amount of dry tannin was so intense that the wines could not be enjoyed until they were at least 10 years old. Today vinification is better and more controlled, so the tannin structure is much softer, and the wines can be enjoyed earlier. The first cabernet sauvignon wines from California were completely different from what was historically known from Bordeaux. Asked if they could last in the long run, top producer Robert Mondavi, referring to his wines on the Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, replied:

"If there is balance in the wine from the start, then the wine will develop well in the long run"

History has shown that he was right! Today, even 30-year-old versions of these wines taste excellent, even without the dry tannins as a preservative.

The Wine's Development Curve

All wines have a unique development curve which is determined by the above factors. If we are to generalize, most wines taste good right when they come to the market. Then big wines tend to "shut down", where the fruit appears less positive. Often during this period, the wines will appear dry and flat in their expression.

However, the great wines are coming back again, with lots of good notes. The fruit gathers, the wine opens and falls into balance as they say. From here on it will be approachable and arrive at the plateau. The plateau will be a period where the wine does not get much better, but where all elements appear in balance. Here the wine can stay for a few or many years.

Eventually, the wine will slowly move downhill again. To begin with, it loses its breath and becomes dull before it eventually ends up on the bottom and turns into wine vinegar - the stage where all wine ends.

Development stage of wine Development stage of wine

Recommendations For When To Drink The Wine

When it comes to making recommendations for when a wine should be drunk, it will also be in general terms for typical areas and vintages, as there is a myriad of exceptions. First and foremost, there are three stages of development that we can measure from the harvest year:

No-touch: Time when the wine has not yet gathered and is not recommended to drink.
Plateau: Where the wine, all other things being equal, should taste best - also known as the "drinking window"
Downhill: Time when the first wines in the category begin to move downhill in terms of taste

Note: Some of the largest wines, in all categories, may have a development window that significantly exceeds these general windows.

Overview of wine

WineNo TouchPlateauDownhill
Bordeaux, Medoc, Classified10 yrs20-50 yrs30 yrs
Bordeaux, Pomerol & Saint-Emilion8 yrs10-40 yrs25 yrs
Burgundy, Grand Cru (red)10 yrs10-30 yrs20 yrs
Burgundy, Premier Cru (red)6 yrs7-20 yrs12 yrs
Italy, Piemonte Barolo12 yrs15-50 yrs30 yrs
Italy, Toscana8 yrs10-30 yrs25 yrs
Napa Valley, cabernet sauvignon8 yrs8-30 yrs15 yrs

What Does The Development Stage Of The Wine Mean For The Investment Potential?

For most good wines, you will find that the price increases with the development of the wine. Good wines with a long shelf life will most often be priced higher than wines with less storage potential. Be especially aware that for the first 2 years after release there will only be a marginal increase - if any at all.

After the first few years without any significant escalations, you will start to see that the price increases in line with the interest in the wine. For most investment-friendly wines, you experience that the closer you get to the plateau of the wine - the drinking window - the greater the interest and thus also the demand, which causes the price to rise.

For wines where you experience large consumption and small productions - for example, most top wines from Burgundy - you will find that the price also increases as the small quantities disappear from the market.

Even when a wine after many years begins to approach the end of its drinking window, one should not be afraid of its investment. At that time, the wine will often be so rare in the market that it is difficult to obtain and thus it will probably keep its price.

Not least for collectors, the wine will still be extremely interesting - even when the drinking window is passed, and the wine is on the decline. On some wines, the value of affection, and the fact that it is so rare, can mean that it continues to rise in price, even though the contents of the bottle are no longer optimal.

Get in touch with RareWine Invest

Fill in the form and we will get back to you as soon as possible