By definition, a long-keeping wine is a wine that can be kept for several years in the cellar, improving by itself through years. However, not all wines improve with time and some are best enjoyed in their youth.
The optimal ageing period differs according to the vintage and the region. Among the long-keeping wine, there are three categories:
- Medium-age wines, which can be kept for 5 to 10 years
- Long-keeping wines, which can be kept for 10 to 20 years
- Very long-keeping wines, which reach their peak after 20 years
The factors of conservation of long-keeping wine
Is it possible to determine in advance the ageing potential of a wine? Unfortunately not. However, some elements play in favor of the good conservation of a wine in time. Among them we find: the terroir, the grape varieties, the vintage and the skill of the winemaker. How do these different factors influence the wine?
First of all, the terroir has a role to play in the ageing of the wine. By terroir we mean the nature of the soil. We can distinguish 3 different categories of soil:
- “Siliceous” soils (sand, gravel, granite): they produce light wines, with little tannic structure, therefore less suitable for long conservation.
- Calcareous soils: they produce slightly more powerful wines, with body, which remain supple. They can therefore be long-keeping wines.
- Soils composed of clay: they grow berries that enter in the composition of firm wines, with a strong color. For these wines there is a great chance that time will help them to improve.
Secondly, the grape variety, i.e. the variety of the vine plant cultivated, will directly influence the wine produced. Thus, to make a good wine for ageing, you need the right grape.
For red wines, it is the case of the king grape variety of the left bank of Bordeaux: Cabernet Sauvignon. Being a grape variety rich in tannins, it is a priori capable of producing wines with long ageing potential.
In the case of white wines, it is the acidity and the richness of the grape variety that will influence its ageing. Indeed, acidity plays the role of antioxidant. Thus, Chardonnay (Burgundy) and Sauvignon Blanc (Loire) are grape varieties that can be kept for up to 15 years before being enjoyed. Moreover, the sugar present in white wines will allow the wine to keep its brightness over time.
As we explained earlier in our article “The best vintages of Cantenac Brown“, weather is an essential element in the production of a great wine. Thus, a cold winter, a mild spring, a hot summer and a harvest without heavy rains are the ideal conditions for the production of a wine for aging. It should be noted that weather conditions are not the same in all regions of France, so a great year in one region will not necessarily be the same in another.
The winemaker’s ability
Finally, it is important that a great wine for ageing would be nothing without an experienced winemaker. Indeed, the work of the winemaker and in particular his methods of vinification are an influential factor on the aptitude of the wine to be kept.