What actually happens with wine aging? Do all wines become better with age? Today I talk to you about this topic, which for many will be a kind of myth. Sometimes we say that such a person is like wine, because it improves with age. But what will be the basis of this popular expression?
It still has something curious, since over 95% of the wine is made to be drunk young, being produced to drink that year and with the potential for aging 3 to 5 years. If so, what will be the effect of time on a wine? Knowing the answer to this question is essential in order to be able to decide if you are going to let the wine you just bought age or drink today.
After all what is wine aging? Wines are the result of alcoholic fermentation of grape must. It is when fermentation ends that the aging of a wine begins. However, we winemakers prefer to divide wine aging into two phases.
At first the wine ages in the most oxidative phase, which occurs before bottling, and which can happen in oak barrels or simply in tanks, be it stainless steel or concrete.
The second phase is the aging that happens when the wine is already in the bottle. It is aging in a reductive environment, that is, in an environment where oxygen is scarce. And it is about this type of aging that I write today.
maturing or aging a wine is a decision that involves knowing the aging potential of the chosen wine. The point is that we don't always know the wine in the bottle so that we can make that decision safely. In the same way that we do not know for sure how long that wine may be aging in the bottle.
To mitigate risks, my first advice is: always buy 12 bottles of a wine you want to age, because that way you can taste one of the bottles annually and know the way the wine is taking. Another piece of advice I want to leave: always try one of the bottles immediately to find out if the wine has potential for aging or not.
Generally speaking, a wine with greater acidity and greater structure will always have a better aging capacity. If you think that more alcoholic wines have a greater capacity for aging, be discouraged. The greatest proof of this is Colares wines, from the Ramisco grape variety, which have proven to age well for decades and have low alcohol content.
Bear in mind that these wines with great aging potential are quite austere when young.
And it is for this reason that some of the best wines in the world are only launched onto the market with several years of aging in the bottle. A good example in Portugal is Barca Velha. In Australia, Grange; in France, Romané Conti; and in California, Opus One. At Casca Wines, all of our wines from old vines age at least two years before their launch.
The aging process of wine is complex and depends on several factors, internal and external, such as the place of aging or the type of seal used in the bottle. But one thing is certain, the aging process is essentially oxidation in a reductive environment.
Let's go to what happens inside the bottle.
The aromas originating from the grape are called primary and develop until bottling. Then there are the secondary ones, originating from fermentation. Once in the bottle, tertiary aromas develop as a result of aging, such as luscious, herbal, earthy aromas, or mushrooms and dried fruits. This is due to the reactions that continue to happen between acids and alcohols.
The texture also changes. White wines gain viscosity. In red wines, the tannins - which are responsible for the structure - bind to other phenolic compounds and become larger and therefore heavier molecules, precipitating and creating the common deposit in aged wines. These processes transform the flavor of wines, softening the edges of youth and also transforming colors and tones.
In wine aging the processes are chemical, but also physical. Since wines are born, chemical processes induce transformations that refer to physical processes. Or to put it another way, the precipitations that frequently occur in the maturation and aging of the wine are the result of physical processes that originate in compounds that are chemically interconnected.
To finish ... don't let a wine get old. If such wine is to age, let it age and allow it to gain maturity and character with age. Give time to time. And when it's time to enjoy it, do it on a special occasion. Then you will see age and history become a moment of pleasure that will remain in your memory.