Can Zinfandel Age?

Yes, Zinfandel can age, but as is true of all wines, it depends on taste. When I was younger, I wasn’t crazy about older Zinfandel because what most appealed to me was its brash fruit and spice. Over time, the signature characteristics of Zinfandel are less apparent, but ideally the flavors marry rather than fade away and I’ve come to appreciate this more and more. Once Zinfandel hits a certain point it can be completely unrecognizable but still extraordinary.

Not all Zinfandel is destined for the wine cellar but some can last for decades. I’ve had 50-year-old Zins from Inglenook that have been amazing. Classic producers such as Ridge, Joseph Swan and Storybook make Zins that don’t start coming into their own until they are at least a decade in. Others, including wines from the aforementioned, don’t hold up. Sometimes it is not so much a matter of the terroir or winemaker but the vintage.

How do you know if a particular wine will age? You should take into account vintage for sure but the best indicator is track record. Insofar as natural producers are concerned, there are not too many that have been around long enough to get a sense of their development but there are a few. Dashe has been on a pretty natural path since its inception 21 years ago. The Heart Arrow Ranch is from a biodynamic vineyard and the others undergo native fermentations. Tony Coturri’s Zinfandels can be brilliant and are often better after at least five years of bottle development. I wouldn’t hesitate to lay down some of the Hobo or Harrington wines, either.

Whether you are looking for a natural wine or not, make sure the fill is at least at the bottom of the neck. Ask someone you trust (feel free to email me Pamela@thevinguard) and don’t be afraid to email the winery and see what they think. No one knows the wines better than the winemaker. Here are notes from an older Zinfandel tasting I did in early 2015. At this point I’m sure even those included have changed and most have probably declined, but sometimes wines just go through a stage; I would not be surprised if the ’04 Dashe Todd Brothers is drinking just as well if not better than it was during the tasting. It was an interesting exercise and if you really want to get a feel for how Zinfandel ages, get a few vintages of the same wine and taste them at the same time.

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