Your guide to finding a fine wine that will improve with age

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We know there are many different factors that go into defining the value of a fine wine investment. Everything from the experience of the producer through to the reputation of the terroir is important.

And of course, as fine wine is a long term investment, storage is also important. But these factors aside, it’s handy to know why some fine wines are worth keeping over others.

How to know whether a fine wine will age well

Fine wine investment is complex. But at its most basic level, you’re simply looking for wines that you can afford now and that will increase in value over time. It’s all about choosing vintages that will deliver on the investment goals you’ve set yourself.

Only you can decide what level of investment you can afford, and how much risk you can take on. Here’s how to spot a wine that should age well and potentially increase in value. There are four key factors to consider:

  • Tannins.
  • Acidity.
  • Alcohol.
  • Sugar.

Look for a wine high in tannins

Tannins form in grapes as they grow, protecting the grapes from the sun. During winemaking the pips, skin and juice of the grapes are crushed together. It’s this process that releases tannins into the wine itself. Tannins can also come from oak barrels as well.

They’re behind the slightly dry mouthfeel of some wines, and also provide the ‘body’ in a glass of wine.

While high levels of tannins can help a particular wine age well, it’s no guarantee. It’s important that the wine is well balanced in the first place. And much of that comes down to the maker’s expertise in balancing the other factors too.

Choose wines with high acidity

In a similar way, the quantity of acid in a wine roughly correlates with how well it ages. Acidity varies from vintage to vintage and offers no fixed guarantee that a wine will age well. But higher acidity generally helps to combat some of the damage done by oxidisation over time.

As wines age, they lose acidity. If you want to keep a bottle for a few years, make sure it has high acid levels to start with. Both acidity and tannins provide structure to the wine and extend its lifespan.

Look for lower alcohol content

Wines with higher alcohol levels are more likely to break down over time. Of course, fortified wines have much higher alcohol levels and still age well. But for non-fortified wines, always look for lower alcohol levels if you want them to improve in storage.

Don’t forget sugar content

The final factor in assessing whether a fine wine will age well is its sugar levels. Sugar is a preservative and wines with higher sugar levels should last longer. A white wine such as Tokakji is the perfect example of a sweet wine that will age beautifully. 

When it comes to ageing wines, balance is everything. Higher tannins, acidity, sugar or lower alcohol levels won’t be enough on their own. Each of these elements need to support each other without one single aspect dominating another.

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that most wines won’t age well. Generally speaking, non-investment wines are made for drinking within a couple of years. Producers only create a relatively tiny number (approximately 1%) of investment quality wines each year. If you’re looking at increasing the value of your investment over time, only focus on these very special wines. And enjoy drinking the rest right now.