Aging Wine
What Does that Mean Today

The old adage "all wine improves with age" is only partially true.

aging a bottle of wine

Aging wine of yesteryear.

Only a few varieties of wine actually get significantly better with age. Only about 10 percent of red wines and 5 percent of white wines taste better after aging five years as opposed to aging wine one year.

Most wines these days are specifically crafted to be enjoyed shortly after bottling.

In general, many wines start to lose a majority of the fruitiness and appeal after being bottle for only six months, The way it happens is wines with a lower pH, such as Pinot Noir, have the greatest ability to get better with age.

A lower pH is usually achieved in red wine by the addition of tannins, thus increasing the amount of phenols in the wine. White wines that do well with age are those that have a high acidity level. The phenols and acid found in these wines act as a preservative and start to break down and mellow out over time.

Today, many wine makers are starting to bottle wines when they feel the wine is at the peak of flavor. Aging wine has given way to our "instant gratification society" - meaning consumers don't want to buy a bottle of wine and have to wait to consume it until it ages in the cellar. We want to buy a bottle of wine and uncork it that night!

White Wine

When white wine is made, the producer tries to keep the skin contact to a minimum. Having contact produces phenols and tannins in the wine and keeping the contact down means the wine will have significantly less phenolic compounds.

The only time these phenols are introduced is when the wine is fermented in oak barrels or is left to age in the oak barrels. The contact with the wood over an extended period of time will impart a small amount of phenols in to the wine, but not enough to make again after the wine is bottled worthwhile, The same goes for rose` wines, thus reducing their aging potential.

Red Wine

Unlike white wines, reds have a very high percentage of skin contact when making the wine and are usually filled with bitter tannins. As the red wine ages, the harsh taste of tannin slowly gives way to a softer, more full bodied wine. This can be noted in the color change, from a deep red, almost black, to a lighter red as it ages. Once the wine is past its prime, the color turns to a brownish hue.

As the tannins start to give up some of their bitterness, sediment starts to for on the bottom of the bottle. The presence of this sediment usually indicated a mature red wine, but is separated out by decanting to avoid the bitter taste.

Vintage Ports and other bottled aged Ports and even some Sherries will benefit from some additional aging, but many other red wines start to diminish after three to five years.

As wines start to age, their floral bouquets will start to become more prominent, but today most of this aging is done before the wines are ever bottled, thus allowing us to go to the store, pick up a bottle and enjoy it at its peak that evening.

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