One Lesson You Must Learn to Collect Wine
"To me, champagne can age quite well, too," Sharp says. "Things with sugar in them have a great ability to have microbial problems just because sugar is such a basic food source for anything and it's an easy way for a wine to spoil. They don't always spoil, and there are some great sweet wines that have aged 20, 30 or 40 years."
The secret, as with most older wines, is the acid. If a particular vintage captures just the right acidity and can hold it together for years on end, the result can be a less fizzy but rounder bubbly.
"Acid plays a huge function in preservation of anything, which is why people who are making an avocado salad might spray some lemon juice on it just to keep it from oxidizing 30 minutes before a meal," Sharp says. "If there is a high-acid champagne, and most champagnes are made with unripened grapes and are going to have really high acid to them, they're going to age well."
A warm vintage
Want to know if a wine of any variety is going to age well? The almanac's usually a good indicator.
If wine grapes are grown during a particularly warm year, the grapes tend to be riper and more sugary. That's great for impatient folks who want to get to the drinking right away, but not so much for someone looking to age a wine for any length of time.
As Sharp discovered, even wines such as pinot noir that normally age well and fetch a high price when sold won't make it very far when they're a warm vintage. How can you tell a warm vintage wine from a cooler year if you don't have an almanac handy? Look for noticeable dips in price from year to year. If the 2008 seems like a deal compared with the 2007, chances are the later vintage soaked in a lot more sun. Still, warm vintages shouldn't be dismissed in all cases.
"Wines that come from warmer vintages are generally enjoyed earlier, while wines from cooler vintages are generally a little more ageable," Sharp says. "That's a huge generalization to make, because in winemaking people will add in tartaric acid in a really warm year to help it age."
New World wine
Didn't the Judgment in Paris put this whole New World/Old World quality discussion to bed? Maybe on the shelves, but apparently not in the cellars.
"It's a huge generalization, but most wines out of France that are $50 or more are going to be able to spend 10 years in a cellar," Sharp says. "In the new world, it's very different and there are so many styles people are making now that's it's tough to say this one should age well and this one shouldn't."