Can white wines age?

A coworker of mine recently was surprised when we started stocking the 2002 Riesling (reviewed previously), claiming that "white wines don't age."

On the contrary, some whites age very well. It is not the grape, although some age much better than others, but the level of acidity, and degree of complexity that determine how well a specific wine will cellar. Just like reds, whites are made to either drink young, or age well.

Chardonnay, especially a well-made Bourgogne Blanc or Macon Blanc-Villages, or even some of the higher-end Californias, can age beautifully, taking on a golden-straw hue that almost shimmers in the light (perhaps that's the oak?). Riesling becomes almost toasted brown, while Pinot Grigio turns a deep lemony-orange colour. The flavours tend to develop length on the palette and finish, with floral and mineral notes mellowing and becoming secondary to the fruit. Sauvignon Blancs do tend to go through a dumb stage for about four or five years, but by seven years into it, the citrus has overtaking any lingering herbal excesses, while the acid has smoothed out and become a soft complement. I personally prefer older Sauvignons, as the young ones are far too crisp and sharp, and the grassy notes are overwhelming on my palette and retro-nasal passage.

So, on that note, throw that interesting bottle of white into the cellar, and let it age a few years!

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