03 Jun Understanding How Wines Get Better With Age
To imply that wines get better as they age is slightly deceiving. However, what can be said is that, similar to people, wines tend to change over an extended period, and this maturity can produce rather exciting results if you know what you’re looking for. Once you better understand what happens to wine in a bottle as it ages, you can start to appreciate older wine.
What Happens When A Wine Ages?
Wine slowly starts to decompose as it ages. The organic compounds in the wine begin to break down when oxygen infiltrates the bottle through the cork. Once it oxidizes, the fresh fruity notes dissipate, giving it a more baked or dried taste, typical in older wines. Extensive oxidation gives rise to caramel or toffee-like aroma in wines.
The physical changes in the astringent tannins of red wines result in a softer and silkier texture that isn’t as harsh on our taste buds. These soft tannins are often called “rounded” as they lose their sharp edges. Flavours in older wines are much more complex as they’ve had time to mature.
The acid and alcohol present in the wine act as solvents, slowly breaking down the various components of the wine and promoting chemical reactions that generate new ones. These elements come together to form something richer than the sum of their parts, almost like a freshly cooked pot of soup.
What Does Properly Aged Wine Taste Like?
The flavour profile of the wine increases in complexity as it ages. It results in a richer and nuanced product and starts tasting less like grapes and more than a complete meal that offers multiple layers of sensations and flavours. White wines can develop layers and ethereality when aged correctly. It’s possible that the once-fresh citrus fruits present before could now be more perfumed and candied. Baking spices and vanilla, derived from oak barrel maturation, blend nicely with now-mature fruit flavours like baked peaches, apricots, apples, and dried figs.
Certain white wines like Chablis can have almost toasted almond-like flavours. Whereas the yeasty, biscuity scents are more prominent in Champagne. There are hints of brown sugar, walnuts, and honey in fortified wines like Port or Madeira.
The flavour notes in certain red wines can be as complex as a full course meal at a fine restaurant. Higher-acid reds retain their freshness and tanginess, but the preserved berry or “jammy” baked flavours of the wine counteract this.
The wine’s tannins are rounded, resulting in a richer and smoother mouthfeel. Most old red wines can have tertiary qualities such as tobacco, leather, or even earth. As they age, you can find aromatic overtones of dried cranberries and potpourri in light Italian reds like Chianti and Brunello. Pinot Noir is often described as having hints of mushrooms or truffles. Balsamic vinegar and soy flavours are familiar in Merlots and Cabernets.
Can A Wine Over-Age?
Yes. Eventually, all wines will have passed the tipping point. You can think of a wine’s ageing process as a science experiment. Additionally, the effects are generally shaped like a bell curve, with the possibility for enjoyment growing first before plateauing and then beginning to drop. As a result, most collectors store multiple bottles of the exact wine in their cellar. This way, they can periodically monitor its progress.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we describe wine as “past its best” if it is still palatable but no longer as pleasurable as it used to be. In some cases, the wine was never meant to be exceptional. Appreciating these older wines is somewhat of an acquired taste. People wouldn’t have a bite of a strawberry and then bite into leather right after. Consequently, it may appear odd at first to hear these things spoken together. When you encounter them simultaneously in a wine, you are challenged to make sense of it.
When correctly balanced and blended into a single wine, the abundance of textures, smells, and flavours conjure up an image in mind. If the wine has been aged to perfection, the experience of sipping it continues to get better and better. When correctly balanced and blended into a single wine, the abundance of textures, smells, and flavours stir up an image in mind. If the wine has been aged to perfection, the experience of sipping it continues to get better and better.
For information about custom wine cellar designing services, call Signature Cellars on 1300 570 636.
Thanks for reading,
1300 570 636