The Aging Wines Puzzle
Jane Masters, Master of Wine
All wines have a life cycle. The time from which a wine is made to when it is ready to drink can be a matter of months to a number of years. Many white wines and most roses are best while young and fresh. Of course there is always exceptions. The majority of red wines do not substantially improve in the bottle. It is only fine wines that have the intrinsic capability to be aged. Indeed some wines only express their character and appeal after sufficient aging in barrels and bottle.
A wine may reach it’s peak and remain at it’s optimum for a number of years. Storage conditions have an impact on how a wine evolves. Temperature, exposure to light, oxygen and even vibrations all have an influence. So what happens as wine matures? It develops a more complex bouquet with a softer more mallow palate.
The taste and maturation of red wines is attributable to the transformation of phenolic substances- tannins aromatic compounds. Oak often develops becoming more intimately part of the whole rather than an obvious flavour. It’s like a casserole that improves after 24 hours, the flavours become more entwined.
Over a greater or shorter period of time the best wines continue to mature to an optimum level of expression when they are ready for drinking. They can stay at this level for a short of long period of time. Some wines can taste mature and continue to delight for years or even decades.
Assigning Maturity and Drinking guidelines can be a bit of a finger in the air job. The only way to assess a wine’s development is to periodically taste it. This is why connoisseurs buy a case of wine and try a bottle every now and then. Then of course there is our personal preference for and appreciation of young or more mature wine – and each one of us is different.