Aging or “cellaring” a wine means that you decide to take a wine you have purchased and store it in a cool, dark place for a number of years, allowing the wine to improve as it sits in the bottle. However, most of us have no idea what wines we should age, and what wines we should drink now, but luckily there are some rules that make this decision pretty easy.

The wine industry loves to talk about aging and collecting wine because drinking a really old wine has a romantic allure. An old wine gives us a way to re-experience a year that was special in our memory, maybe the year of our birth or anniversary, or drink a wine that comes from a time we may never even have lived. On top of this, when a wine that was meant to be aged is drunk, the aging of the wine helps create flavors and textures we would never have experienced had the wine not undergone aging.

Only 1% of all the wine produced in the world is meant to be aged.

This being said, only 1% of all the wine produced in the world is meant to be aged. When you think about it, this is probably why drinking an aged wine is romanticized to such a great extent, because so few bottles in the world actually benefit from, and can handle, sitting around for such a long time.

This also means that 99% of all wine we buy is meant to be drunk right now. This doesn’t mean that the wine expires—as long as you store it correctly—it just simply means you shouldn’t purposefully age it, because you won’t be gaining any benefit from waiting.

A good rule of thumb is that almost all wines priced around thirty dollars and under are meant to be drunk now. When we say a wine is meant to be drunk now, we mean it is intended to be consumed within five years or so of buying it. After those five years are up, the wine can actually start to deteriorate and lose many of the qualities that made it so delicious.

For wines above thirty dollars, a majority of these too should be consumed within five years. Only wines that are considered “premium” truly benefit from aging and, at that point, there are all sorts of specific rules (depending on the type of wine you want to age) that dictate how long you should age it and when the wine will be absolutely perfect. If this is something you are interested in, there are great books out there that can help.

Since the majority of us will buy wines to be drunk now, we’ll stick to this rule: all wine, even the most age-worthy, is meant to be drunk, not looked at in a collection. So store your wine well either on a horizontal rack or build your custom wine cellar, and pop your corks often. Cheers!