The best types of wine to include in your collection are the ones you enjoy most. Right? Maybe. It depends on your goals.
Are you an investor? In other words, is your primary purpose to sell the wine after (hopefully) it’s increased in value. Or, is your goal just to have a decent selection of wine for that impromptu dinner party?
No matter what your answer, there are certain facts to consider:
1) Most types of wine are ready-to-drink. So, if you’re cellaring this kind of wine for that impromptu dinner party, hopefully you will drink it within a year (this time frame is based on storing the wine under ideal conditions).
If however, you’re cellaring this type of wine as an investment, good luck. It has already reached its peak, and will more than likely deteriorate with age even under the best conditions.
Some considerations when buying ready-to-drink wines are:
- Health Benefits – which wines are best for preventing cardiovascular disease (i.e. has the most Reservatrol or Polyphenols).
- Calorie and Carbohydrate Content – which wines are the least likely to expand your waistline.
- Green Wine – Organic, Biodynamic, or Carbon-Neutral Wine for the environmentally conscious.
2) Certain types of wine improve with age. So, if you’re a casual wine collector, buying this kind of wine provides several benefits (assuming proper storage conditions):
- You have a longer time frame to enjoy your wine.
- You can increase the size and variety (balance) of your collection.
- You can save money by taking advantage of sales and bargains.
If you’re an investor, these are the wines most likely to increase in value. However, less than 1% of all the wines worldwide are investment grade and Bordeaux makes up 80% of them.
The name Bordeaux is synonymous with wine investment. Red Bordeaux has an established resale history and is still the primary investment medium. The reason for this (as you can see from the list below) is that it has a long history of improving with age. However, the research required to buy Bordeaux wine can be frustrating and time-consuming. See the link below for further details.
Types of Wine that Age Well
Note: In general, more expensive wines are designed to become better with age. Most inexpensive wines do not benefit from aging.
Types of Red Wine
- Cabernet Sauvignon e.g. Bordeaux in the Medoc Region of France
- Merlot e.g. St. Emilion and Pomerol in Bordeaux France
- Pinot Noir e.g. Grand Cru Burgundies of France
- Syrah / Shiraz e.g. Hermitage and Cote Rotie districts of the Rhone, France
Types of White Wine
- Chardonnay e.g. French Chablis and White Burgundy
- Riesling e.g. German Spatlese, Auslese and Beerenauslese
- Sauvignon Blanc / Semillion e.g. White Bordeaux in the Graves Region of France
Types of Dessert Wine
- Hungarian Tokaji / Tokay
- Riesling e.g. German Trockenbeerenauslese
- Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc e.g. Sauternes the sweet wine region of Bordeaux France
- Portugese Vintage Port
Types of Sparkling Wine
- Prestige Cuvee Champagne e.g. Dom Perignon, France
New World vs Old World Wines
You may have noticed that there are no New World wines mentioned in the above list (e.g. wines from California and Australia). Although wineries in California and Australia plant the same grape varieties that can be found in Europe, the balance of their wines are different (there are of course exceptions). This difference is mostly due to climate, although the preference of American wine-drinkers for wines with high-alcohol content has affected the wines produced.
Wine balance is the harmony of fruitiness, acidity, alcohol (sugar), and tannin. High acid and tannin levels increase the longevity of wine. As a grape ripens it loses acidity and the sugar level increases along with its ability to produce alcohol. This is the basis of the difference between New World and Old World wines.
Due to the colder climate, most northern European wine growing regions have a shorter growing season than New World wine regions. Therefore, northern European grapes have less time to ripen and have lower sugar levels than New World grapes. The result is Old World wines of high acid, low sugar (alcohol 12.5%), relatively low fruitiness and high longevity versus New World wines of low acid, high sugar (alcohol 14.5+%), high fruitiness and relatively low longevity.
Another consequence of the traditionally high acid and low alcohol content of Old World wines is they are not as accessible when young compared to New World wines. They often require several years in the bottle before they are consumed to soften the acids and tannins and develop their delicate fruit flavors.
So how long should you store your wines? The list below shows the number of years after the vintage date (year grapes were harvested) that some common types of wine are likely to reach their peak.
Aging Suggestions for Common Types of Wine
- Beaujolais – 0 to 3 years
- Beaujolais Nouveau – drink as soon as possible
- Bordeaux, Red – 5 to 20 years
- Bordeaux, White – 4 to 10 years
- Cabernet Sauvignon – 5 to 15 years
- Champagne, non-Vintage – 0 to 2 years
- Champagne, Vintage – 5 to 10 years
- Chianti – 0 to 7 years
- Chardonnay – 0 to 5 years
- Merlot – 2 to 8 years
- Gewurztraminer – 0 to 4 years
- Pinot Noir – 0 to 5 years
- Port, non-vintage, tawny, etc. – 0 to 5 years
- Port, Vintage – 10-20+ years
- Rioja – 4 to 10 years
- Riesling – 3 to 20 years
- Sangiovese and Barolo – 5 to 10 years
- Sauternes and other sweet whites – 5 to 15 years
- Sauvignon Blanc – 0 to 2 years
- Shiraz – 5 to 12 years
- Vouvray – 0 to 5 years
- Zinfandel, Red – 5 to 10 years
- Zinfandel, White – 0 to 1 years
This is just a guide, every winery has different methods, and low-quality wines won’t last as long as high quality wines of the exact same type (or grape variety). Wines from good years last much longer than wines from poor years. For example, the recommended aging period for Red Bordeaux is 5 to 20 years. But, a Premier Crus chateaux (top-level winery) from this region can produce a wine that improves for 30+ years in a good vintage. You can get more specific aging recommendations from various online resources like Wine Spectator, merchant websites, or wine guides in book or electronic form.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the best types of wine to store, but it’s enough to start your collection.
Now that you know which types of wine to put in your cellar, let’s discuss proper storage conditions.