4 Tips to Buying Anniversary Wines
Just married? or do you have a friend who plans on tying the knot soon? As a wine lover, the first gift I think of buying for a friend’s wedding is wine. It could be my selfish desire to want to have a hand at my friend’s anniversaries, however there is something really enchanting about collecting wine for a wedding anniversary. What are the wines that age well so that they can be enjoyed after 1 year? 5 years? 25 years?
Let’s outline the basics of wines that age well from the first few years to the bitter… ahem, sweet end!
The 4 Tips to Buying Age-worthy Anniversary Wines
When buying anniversary wines for a wedding there are four tips that will ensure the wine will age well: acidity, tannin, sweetness level and alcohol level.
Wines with higher acid tend to last longer. As a wine ages it slowly loses its acids and flattens out. Basically, a wine with higher acid has a longer runway to work with as it ages. Some wines are so acidic and unapproachable that they take about 10 years to taste good.
A red wine trait: A wine with high tannins has a similar sensation to putting a used tea-bag on your tongue. Tannin acts as a structural component and wines with higher tannin tend to last longer. Tannins come from the contact of the pips and skins of the grapes in winemaking. Additionally, tannin comes from contact during oak aging. White wines do not need tannin to last a long time.
The alcohol level adversely affects how well a wine ages. Alcohol either acts as a volatile agent or a preservative (as in vintage port). All dry wines that are not preserved with distilled spirits, such as port, do not last long if the alcohol level is high. A wine that ages well will typically have 13.5% alcohol or below. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule and they typically have high acid/tannin structure. However, as a basic rule, a lower alcohol wine will last longer.
This component of a wine is often overlooked because of the popularity of dry wines, however wines with higher residual sugar can age well.
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Beyond stylistic factors of the wine itself, the cork makes a big impact on how long to age wine (see article on How Wine Corks Affect Aging Wine). Light and heat damage will end a wine’s shelf life. Additionally, note that a wine from the year of someone’s marriage sometimes may not come to the market for up to 6 years after its vintage year.
1st year anniversary wine
Mollydooker 2 Left Feet, Shiraz | Cabernet | Merlot The first year of marriage is often a little awkward as newlyweds figure out how to co-habitat. I would buy them something fruity and splashy to mirror a youthful marriage. What doesn’t work well after only one year of aging: Vintage Port, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco. What falls on its face after only a year? Cheap wines.
2 year anniversary wine
Mi Sueño Los Carneros Pinot Noir The second year of marriage is all about dreaming. Pinot noirs from Sonoma that have alcohol levels in the 13.5%-14.5% range tend to drink better younger. An opulent vintage for pinot noir in Sonoma such as 2009 will drink well in the first 2 years. Not 2010, which was colder, developing what critics call “more elegant” wines with higher acidity that don’t taste as good young.
5 year anniversary wine
Nicolas Catena Zapata Cabernet | Malbec | Petit Verdot After 5 years a marriage is ready to start enjoying the longer-lived wines. A blend of Cabernet and Malbec has enough lushness from malbec and age-worthy character of Cabernet Sauvignon to drink perfectly at 5 years (or even longer). Reserve cabernet sauvignon (CA & WA) from warmer vintages, or Supertuscans from Italy (such as Sassacaia, Ornelaia ‘Tenuta del Ornelaia’, Gaya ‘Magari’, Argiano ‘Solengo’), Syrah (Paso Robles, WA ) from more-structured vintages.
7 year anniversary wine
Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino At some point you have to admit that your relationship has moved past the youthful stage. At seven years, certain wines are just starting to be drinkable. Seven years marks a time where young and fruity notes of a wine move into more tertiary developed notes of a wine that has the aromas of age. Brunello di Montalcino, Barbaresco, Burgundy, Chateauneuf du Pape and age-worthy wines from the US all start to get tasty around this stage.
10 year anniversary wine
Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet After 10 years, low-alcohol(13.5%) mountain vineyard wines from California and Washington develop a whole new amazing flavor. Look at wines from Howell Mountain, Red Mountain (WA), Spring Mountain and Atlas Peak for the characteristics of a longer-lived American wine. Also, slightly cooler more “elegant” vintages (where cabernet grapes take on more bell-pepper notes) tend to age longer because of higher acidity and lighter color.
15 year anniversary wine
Paolo Bea Sagrantino of Montefalco, Italy After 15 years, regions that make long-lived wines start to come into life. Consider Bordeaux (FR), Chateauneuf de Pape (FR), Burgundy (FR), Montefalco (It), Taurasi (It), Barolo (It) Barbaresco (It), Ausclese Riesling (De).
20 year anniversary wine
Calon Segur St. Estephe Cabernet-based Bordeaux After 20 years, regions that make long-lived wines are in full swing. Consider Bordeaux (FR), Chateauneuf de Pape (FR), Burgundy (FR), Barolo (It), Barbaresco (It), Ausclese Riesling (De), Vintage Port (Pt).
25+ year anniversary wines
Now you can’t have any more red wine. After 25 years it’s time to start enjoying vintage Champagne, vintage Port, age-worthy sweet wines such as Sauternes and Hungarian Tokaji (“toeKIY” look for 6 puttonyos).