Do white wines age?

To drink now, or not to drink now? that is the question

I cannot imagine a wine cellar with a larger quantity of white wines then red wines, though there may be some cellar full of old German Rieslings and Burgundy Chardonnays so I won't bet on it either.

As a rule of thumb, most wines (red & white) should be drunk young, but many premium and quality wines have potential to age - some may even get better with age. We're not speaking of your typical supermarket wines here (though I have absolutely nothing against them and have often bought from the supermarket aisle myself) but more of quality and premium wines.

Rosé wines and Sauvignon Blancs tend to be drunk earlier on and only very few top quality examples get better with age. Most mass market ones are meant to be drunk pretty soon after release.

Rieslings, on the other hand, are often age-worthy and event the entry level German and Alsatian examples will last quite some time in the bottle - Id have no issue keeping a 'Supermarket style' Riesling for a couple of years in the bottle. The really great ones can last several years, whereas the sweeter styled ones could keep getting better with every year on the bottle.

Speaking of sweet wines, Botrytis cinerea infected wines such as Sauternes or Tokaji are fantastic candidates for cellaring for the long term. Chateau D'Yquem and other Sauternes from as far back as 1920 are still drinking superbly.

The real hard question of age-ability gets a bit complicated when we talk about Chardonnay. In general the Chardonnay grape makes wines that have a bit more alcohol and less acid than most Sauvignon Blancs or Rieslings , and because they have been aged in oak they would have been exposed to more oxygen than, say, a Sauvignon Blanc and would probably age a bit faster. Most Chilean and Argentinian Chardonnays, for example, are ready to drink on release, but some of the greatest white wines in the world are fully mature white burgundies made from Chardonnay.

True that Premox (Premature Oxidation) has affected quite a number of bottles of even the most famous of producers, some of the finest examples of white Burgundy Chardonnay can age for decades.

A special mention to Chablis (see video) where many Premier Cru Chablis can age for a good 5 to 8 years and Grand Cru examples can age beneficially up to even 15 years. So much so, I believe we drink 1er Cru and Grand Cru examples a bit too young, so try to hold them a but and see how they progress. Could the that the oak is so well integrated that Chablis is not affected by Premox so much?

It would be unfair not to mention the Rhone blends and Bordeaux white blends which, when of top quality, can age up to 8 or 10 years and possibly improve in the bottle, but I would pay special attention to the producer before leaving the bottle at the bottom of my cellar.

General rules of thumb that I follow before laying down any white wines is:

1. To make sure the producer is of a quality worth laying down

2. To check the origin of the wine known to have the potential to age

3. To consider higher levels of sweetness to be age-worthy

I would also consider the price. I don't often like to mention price as a determining factor for quality, but wines at the cheaper end of the scale are usually meant to be drunk young.

Here's a short clip on white wines and age-ability!

With special thanks to 'Yachting International Radio' for the editing.