Aging your wine — or not

“I’ve just ordered wine. Can I drink it right away?”

Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. Some wines are ready to drink, but some will greatly benefit from spending a little time in the cellar — or a long time.

How do you know if your wine is ready to drink?

Here is a little cheat-sheet!

Region Appellation Reds Whites
Chénas 2-4 years
Juliénas 2-5 years
Morgon 2-5 years
Moulin-à-Vent 4-10+ years
Saint-Amour 1-3 years
Condrieu 2-10 years
Côte-Rôtie 8-15 years
Ermitage 5-40+ years 3-25 years
Saint-Péray 2-4 years
Crozes-Hermitage 2-6 years
Saint Joseph 4-5 years 2 years
Cornas 5-10+ years
Villages 3-5 years 3-8 years
Cru 5-12 years 3-8 years
Villages 2-5 years 2-5 years
Cru 4-10 years 4-10 years
Pommard 4-15 years
Villages 3-7 years
Cru 4-8+ years
Villages 2-6 years
Cru 4-10 years
Corton Premier Cru 7-15 years
Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 5-20 years
Saint Joseph Villages 3-10 years
Cru 5-10 years
Marsannay 2-5 years
Villages 3-8 years
Cru 5-15 years
Mâcon 1-3 years
Pouilly-Fuissé 3-10+ years
Pouilly-Vinzelles 3-10+ years
Saint-Véran 2-4 years
Villages 5-8 years
Cru 5-12 years

Champagnes are all ready-to-drink now.

Note: the aging clock starts ticking from the wine’s vintage year — the year the grapes were harvested.

  • A 2009 wine that requires 5 years of aging is ready to drink in 2014 (now). If it requires 10 years of aging, you should cellar it for another 5 years.

  • Most wines are released a year or two after the harvest (but see exceptions below). This means that they already have one or two years of aging by the time you purchase them. For early-drinking wines (1-3 years aging window), this basically means “drink upon purchase”.

  • Vintage Champagnes are aged for many years at the producer’s cellar before release; Beaujolais Nouveaux are released a mere 3 months after harvest. Both are ready to drink upon release.