Sometimes when drinking older or aged wines there is the perception that the wine is sweeter on your palate. It is just that—a perception—as the aging process doesn’t affect the sugar content of a wine. It is the same after 10 to 15 years as it was at bottling.
What would cause this phenomenon? Wine is made up of many, perhaps hundreds, of chemical compounds, some good and some bad. As wine ages some of the undesirable compounds blend or evaporate away, especially when the wine is exposed to air. As these changes take place they have a tendency to change the wine’s aroma as well as the perception of a wine’s sweetness.
Why Age Wines?
When you allow wines to age some truly remarkable changes take place. But not all wines age well. In an aged wine the aromas (nose) are much different than in younger, immature wines. Aged wine aromas become more rounded and perhaps more complex. Rounded wine aromas are smooth and well balanced, not rough. The smell is gentler.
I believe a complex wine is one that can change as it ages. By that I mean the smell, taste and finish will or might be different from taste to taste. Only age, in my judgement, allows wine to have this characteristic.
Wines That Will Age
In order for a wine to improve and increase its complexity through aging it has to have the right “stuff” or characteristics to age. So what is the “right stuff?” Most wines that age well are red wines, although fine white wines can age from 10 to 15 years. These are the primary items that make wines age well:
- High acidity
- High tannins
- High potential alcohol (ie. sugars), but lower alcohol levels, say 13.5% and less in still wines (not sparkling)
- Tendency to come from grapes grown in places with long, warm summers and cool (not frosty) winters
Places such as Napa Valley, Calif. or France’s Bordeaux regions are both known for wines that age well. Some of the more popular grapes or wines for aging are Cabernets, Merlots and Malbecs.
Fortified wines are perhaps the longest lived wines of all. These wines are Champagne, Port and wines produced with small amounts of brandy or other distilled spirits added during fermentation. These wines include Madeira (a white fortified wine), Marsala (an Italian specialty) and Port (dessert wine), most likely the world’s best known fortified wine. These wines have been known to age to 100 years or more. They also have some of the highest alcohol levels, 17% to 20% ABV.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17th – International Malbec Day
- May 4th – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9th – National Moscato Day
- May 21st – National Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 11th – National Rosé Wine Day