There is a well-known concept that aged wines come out better, smoother and has a finer taste, but how true is that?
Wine fascinates a lot of people and I’m one of those people, especially the prices some of them have and most especially the ability for it to survive over such a long period of time.
Are All Wines Aged?
For a very long time, we didn’t completely understand the chemistry involved in the ageing process of wine. The ancient Greeks and Romans were already aware of this potential, however, and stored wines in amphorae that were then buried for many years.
Nowadays, however, most wines are not aged, and many of the ones that undergo this process do so for relatively short amounts of time. It is believed that 90% of wines across the globe are created with the intention of being consumed within only a year after being produced.
How Wines Age
Wines are a solution of alcohol, acids, phenolic and elements that add flavour – this means the wine is complex and going through constant change. All components react to each other, connect and separate, break down, etc. Only to start it all over again.
Inside the closed system that is a bottle of wine, it is thought that one of the most important elements in the ageing of wine are tannins. These molecules originate from the seeds, stems and skins of grapes, and have anti-fungal properties, which makes it bitter and astringent.
As times goes on, small amounts of oxygen enter the bottle and react with the tannins, which influences the chemical reactions inside. This process needs to be slow as if a large amount of oxygen seeps into the bottle at once, the particles in the wine will oxidise and the flavour will suffer.
As tannins deal with oxygen, they start to make the wine feel different when sipped, until it will linger pleasantly in the mouth. The number of tannins can be chosen, which will determine if the wine will eventually mature into something rich and complex.
The Perfect Moment for Wine
It is not as challenging today as it used to be to know whether a wine has finished ageing and should be bottled, or whether it even had the potential to age for many years. Winemakers now use complex instruments and measures to ensure that wine has attained its peak when the acidity, the tannins, and the alcohol levels are all balanced. The wine also needs to be clear of sediment and of residual CO2 gas.
Which Wines Age Better?
Vintage, wine region and the way the wine is made can influence its ageing potential. When testing vintages, sugar is also an element present in them, and some of the wines that have aged incredibly well have been sweet wines.
There are many wines that can be considered ideal for ageing, therefore, such as Syrah, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Hungarian Furmint. Vintage Port might be one of the best examples of ageing wine, as you can still find 19th-century bottles that are in excellent drinking condition. The oldest known bottle is a Ferreira from 1815.
The idea that wine always improves with age is not completely accurate, even if it is a common misconception. However, it is true that the flavour of certain wines becomes deeper and more complex with age, mainly due to what happens during their ageing process.
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