A Guide to Age-Worthy Italian Wines

Age is nothing, but a number, unless we are talking about the wine world. Wines aren’t all meant to live a long life. And, when it comes to the best time to drink Italian wine, the answer is rarely one-sided. Italian wines are some of the most age-worthy in the world. With so many kinds produced across the peninsula, even our Italian wine professional heads can spin while determining the answer.

Don’t fret - there are Italian wines out there with a historic track record for longevity that you can spot by knowing the basics. Once you learn these basics, you will open yourself to a world of knowing age-worthy Italian wines that can age anywhere from 5 to 20+ years. The best part is that this longevity isn’t exclusive to red wines - Italy is known for its age-worthy white wines as well!

Let’s dive into what makes a wine last and which Italian wines are age-worthy, only sparkling more with time.

What Makes an Age-Worthy Wine?

Before we dive into which Italian wines age well, it’s best to understand why they age well. There are a few foundational elements when assessing how long a wine can be stored. These elements go for white and red wines, but of course, apply differently with each wine.


The first determining factor is acidity - the tingly, mouthwatering sensation that a wine may give you. Wines with more acidity generally can last longer, as a lower pH protects the wine from oxidization and other changes that degrade a wine’s character.


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Tannins are up next. These compounds are more associated with red wines. Why? Because red wine grape skins hold the color of the wine, red wines undergo something called maceration during winemaking (where the skins rest in the grape juice to extract color.) They also extract tannin - compounds full of antioxidants that lend structure and protect a wine’s aromas as it ages.

Now, that’s not to say a white wine can’t have tannin. While they rarely have tannin-like red wines, white wines with thicker skins also have more oxidation-resistant compounds, which support the wine's longevity.

Alcohol and Sugar Content

The last main factor to consider is alcohol and sugar. Now, it’s important to say that these two elements aren’t enough for a wine to have aging potential - they need to be supported by tannins and acidity. In a dry still wine, alcohol should be balanced, as alcohol can sometimes break down a wine’s flavors, aromas, and overall structure. The exception is dessert wines, especially fortified wines because of their high alcohol. The addition of high-proof alcohol, or grape-distilled spirit, stabilizes the base, and sweet wine and eliminates any spoilage bacteria or remaining yeasts.

Wines with a remarkable amount of sweetness (like dessert wines) will be preserved by their sugar content. A small amount of residual sugar in the wine doesn’t necessarily guarantee age-worthiness and can also prove to be a wine's downfall after years of bottle ageing.

Italian White Wines that Age Well


The North of Italy often takes the cake when it comes to white wines. However, southern Italy is home to one of the most impressive white grape varietals of them all - Fiano.

Hailing from the region of Campania, this ancient grape was recognized by the Romans for its finesse. And, today’s family wineries understand Fiano’s aging potential. This wine has an exceptionally persistent acidity, complimented by a fleshy body structured from Fiano's thick, waxy skins. The grapes typically grow in high altitudes in a combination of volcanic and limestone soil, which many believe is behind Fiano’s intriguing mineral and flinty character.

Nonetheless, Fiano is very vibrant when young, with bright apple and honey flavors that only evolve with age into delicious dried fruit and nutty aromas. A well-made bottle of Fiano di Avellino can easily age for 10 years.


Moving northeast to Le Marche, we find the ravishing Verdicchio. Similarly to Fiano, Verdicchio possesses an inherently striking acidity and structure, especially when grown on higher, steeper slopes. Certain young Verdicchio wines can be easy to drink despite their bold character. Many producers make Verdicchio’s meant to be sipped young (like La Staffa’s Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi).

Yet, Verdicchio made to age (especially the riservas) are very transformative wines. Its youthful green apple and citrus flavors expand into more exotic notes over time. The incredible acidity of Verdicchio doesn’t fade either, so much so that Riserva Verdicchio wines can enjoy 20 years of aging when made with heart.

Italian Red Wines that Age Well


Tuscany’s grape mascot - Sangiovese is behind the region's most beloved red wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. These 3 wines also have something in common - they are made from Sangiovese grapes and all age exceptionally well.

This is no coincidence. Sangiovese’s innate character makes it keen on aging when grown in the right conditions and made with thoughtful winemaking practices. Yet, Sangiovese is one of Italy’s most popular varieties because it can play both sides. This is precisely why you may find fresh and easy-going Chianti DOCG or Sangiovese IGT wines, meant to be drunk 1 to 2 years after release. Then, on the other hand, there is a Brunello di Montalcino Riserva aged 6 years (including at least 6 months in bottle) before release that can chill out for another 6-10 years easily. Take note of the Brunello Consorzio declarations of “five star” vintages, which are considered to be among the best vintages. In Chianti, look out for the Chianti Classico Riservas, especially members of the Gallo Nero Consorzio. In Montepulciano, look out for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riservas and special cuvees from high-quality vintages.

When Sangiovese is made with longevity in mind, it can beautifully evolve. This grape has a naturally fruity acidity with potent tannins and balanced alcohol. It ticks all the boxes for an age-worthy wine. Combined with the oak aging it may undergo in appellations like Chianti Classico or Brunello di Montalcino, Sangiovese transforms into a wine that can rest in a bottle for 15 to even 25 years. Over this time, Sangiovese’s herbaceous and cherry character evolves into a more complex vegetal, tea-like character, with aromas of leather and spice.


A testament to tannins, Sagrantino is a grape born to be aged. This Italian grape puts the noble Nebbiolo to the test when it comes to mouth-drying structure. Alas, Sagrantino has often been slighted for its tannic intensity. But, when aged, Sagrantino’s beauty blossoms.

Sagrantino’s tannins may carry it through years of bottle age. Yet, it also has the acidity that keeps up (remember - balance is key!) In Montefalco - the home of Sagrantino - many producers pride themselves on just how long Sagrantino can go. While some say it peaks at 8-10 years, many argue that it's closer to 15 (or even more) that Sagrantino hits its complexity, shifting from a tannic powerhouse to a more velvety, violet-driven red wine.


The grape behind Barolo and Barbaresco - two of the most recognized age-worthy wines - Nebbiolo comes in hitting all the boxes. It has intense tannins, acidity, and relatively balanced alcohol (climate change has challenged this last element, but that is a topic for another day). Be on the lookout for vintages that are hailed by critics. Nebbiolo itself loves to transform over time. Its inherently high acidity and tannins keep the wine alive in a bottle for roughly 20 years. Of course, it is important to mention that more youthful styles of Nebbiolo are produced these days, such as Langhe Nebbiolo. Their fruitier, less concentrated character makes them ready to drink quite immediately, although there are examples that can take on at least 5 years of age, like Aldo Conterno’s 'Il Favot' Langhe Nebbiolo.


Some like to call this guy the Nebbiolo of the south, but Aglianico is one of a kind. In terms of age, this wine pre-dates the Romans, most likely brought by the ancient Greeks back when a good chunk of the Campania region was Magna Graecia.

Fast-forward to today, Aglianico produces red wines made to lay down for a little snooze. Aglianico’s thick skins are full of tannins, yielding a wine with a hefty structure. When grown in areas like Irpinia (home to the famous Taurasi DOCG), Aglianico’s acidity is heightened and glorified, creating wines with real potential to transform over time. Taurasi sees its dark fruit and slight smokey character transform into a balsamic, leather, and umami character.

Nerello Mascalese

On the trail of tannic reds, you can’t go without mentioning Nerello Mascalese. This newcomer to the esteemed Italian red wine clan is behind the illustrious wines of Etna Rosso. The volcanic character of these wines is respectfully due to Etna’s volcanic ash soils. Yet, Nerello’s firm structure only begins to shine around at least 5-8 years of age, with its tannins softening and volcanic character evolving into a sweet expression of terroir. Its smokiness takes on a softness, with its cherry fruit flavors becoming more savory and balsamic.

Aging Italian Sweet Wines

Earlier, we hinted at how sugar can help preserve wines and support them through the aging process. The fascinating thing here is that - while the sugar aspect is surely a scientific fact - the concept of making sweet wines was an ancient practice as people centuries ago knew that sweeter wines lasted longer.

Regardless, these ancient traditions revealed some impressive dessert wines. From Vin Santo to Passito, throughout the Italian peninsula you will find delicious sweet wines that can really keep up with age. Let’s dive into a few.

Vin Santo

Tuscany’s premiere sweet wine has quite a holy history. Vin Santo (meaning ‘holy wine’) dates back to at least the Renaissance. Made from grapes dried traditionally on straw mats which are then pressed, the resulting sweet wine is aged in oak barrels for anywhere from 3 to 10 years. This aging relies heavily on DOC requirements or simply on winemakers' choice! Either way, the wines become more complex with age, and that goes for when you let them rest in bottle too. Over time, the wines can develop more nutty notes, with the sugars maturing into more dried fruit notes and spice elements becoming soft and sweet. Depending on the vintage, a quality Vin Santo can age from 10 to even 20 years in bottle.


Up in the Veneto, there’s a very ravishing sweet wine named Recioto. Actually, there are two types of Reciotos in this area: Recioto di Soave and Recioto della Valpolicella. Both are DOCGS, with the former being a white sweet wine and the latter being red. And, indeed these two wines are age-worthy.

Recioto di Soave DOCG is known for its gorgeous golden color that only becomes more amber with age. These wines usually have a vibrant acidity - despite their sweetness - helping maintain balance as they age. Recioto di Soave can age at least 10 years in bottle, with its sweet apricot and almond notes becoming more marzipan-like with time.

When it comes to Recioto della Valpolicella, aging is in its DNA. It's made from the same grapes as Amarone (although a different winemaking process of course.) While Amarone is definitely more famous, Recioto actually is the more historic, ancestral wine of the Valpolicella area. This delicious sweet wine can be quite delicious young, with juicy berry flavor. Yet, in bottle it can age for 10+ years easily. It’s quite a joy to see its fruity character turn into more serious sweet spice aromas and jam-like flavor.

Other Passito-style Wines

Given Italy’s ancient winemaking history, it’s no surprise that sweet wines are sort of everywhere. The act of drying grapes to concentrate their sugars - the appassimento process - is a common practice to make sweet wines across Italy. These wines are called passito and usually have it as part of their name (with the exception of Vin Santo.)

While the kinds may vary, there are passito wines to know that are definitely age-worthy. Picolit Passito, from the region of Fruili-Venezia Giulia, is a flawless and special example, as it is a wine made with botrytized grapes. In other words, the grapes grow a fungus (botrytis known as ‘noble rot’) that makes the grapes shrivel and concentrate, in a good way! This causes the wines to be very astounding in flavor. Picolit Passito in particular is a rare wine because of the variability of botrystis. It doesn’t happen every year! But, when you do score a vintage, hold on to it tight - as it can last easily 15-20 years.

Finding Age-Worthy Italian Wines with Big Hammer

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This guide is only a start to exploring the age-worthiness of Italian wines. Our team is here to help you find the right bottle to store in your cellar, start your collection, or give as an impressive gift.

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