How Are Wines Aged?
When wine ages, time rounds out its tannins, taste, and aroma. It decelerates oxidation and softens the wine. Yet, did you know some wines shouldn’t be aged at all? Today, only approximately 1% of wines are fit for aging given 90% of wine must be drunk within one year of production.
In addition to answering why white wines gain color and red wines lose it during the process, the following article will take you through the nuances of aging wine.
Why Age Wine?
Aging is an ancient technique of improving wines that exhibit aging-potential and that’s why aged wines are a rarity. When you age certain wines, multiple characteristics within them improve as highlighted below.
Aging changes the astringency of the wine by reduction of acidity due to the precipitation of phenolic compounds. This is why the aged counterpart of any age-able wine tastes less bitter while featuring a richer and smoother mouthfeel.
When white wine is aged, it oxidizes to produce a darker color, which changes into a brown tint when over-oxidized. For red wine, the initial purple color fades away to reveal a brick red or orange color.
After aging wine, it loses aromas of the grapes and yeast over time. While the freshness is lost, the floral or fruity aroma is strengthened in aged wines like Muscat and Riesling.
What Is The Aging Process?
Good storage and handling are vital for aging wine because it helps you control oxidation, light, and heat that affect it over time. Without this effort, it’s hard to prevent fine wines from turning it into vinegar.
Keep reading to learn the two steps for aging red wine properly.
Step 1: Identify Grape Varietal
Once you know the grape varietal, it’s easy to find guidelines for aging the wine based on its varietal online. Here’s a rough list of the maximum aging-span (in years) of common red wines:
- Pinot Noir: 5
- Chianti: 7
- Merlot: 8
- Sangiovese: 10
- Rioja (red): 10
- Vintage Port: 20
- Bordeaux (red): 20
Step 2: Storage
- Find a wine cellar, basement, or refrigeration unit.
- Rack the barrels or wine bottles safely.
- Crosscheck and set the temperature to 550F to 650F.
What Wines Should Be Aged?
Aging was commonplace in Greece where raisin wine or dry ‘straw wines’ were revered for their traits. In parallel, Romans used Falernian from Aglianico grapes as it aged better. The aging process currently includes selecting wines worthy of aging, and then, improving its storage.
How do you detect wines fit for aging? Check for the following:
- Acidity: Red wines with high acidity will improve upon aging for years.
- pH balance: A lower pH also prevents oxidation of the wine.
- Alcohol: Fortified wines with high alcohol can last a hundred years and come out with a softer taste and mellow high.
So, which wines can be aged? Find out below.
- Red wines made with Shiraz, Red Zinfandel, and Barolo taste rounder after 10 years of aging while Cabernet Sauvignon tastes softer after 15 years of aging.
- White wines such as Chardonnay with a low pH can be aged for 10 years compared to sweet dry Riesling which can handle up to five years. Arinto is another white which tastes better when aged for up to 12.5 years.
- Champagne: Due to carbonation, vintage Champagne such as Moet & Chandon Champagnes can last 20 years.
What Wines Should Note Be Aged?
Not all wines improve upon aging. In fact, some shouldn’t be aged at all. Here are the wines that should never be aged:
- White wines: Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc that are mass-produced are best consumed right away. Conversely, Pinot Gris is better when it’s young.
- Red wines: While most red wines get better with age, Zinfandel won’t last more than seven years and Malbec should be drunk within eight years.
Where Do You Find The Best Wines for Aging?
When you’re seeking wine for aging rather than drinking, check out some of the options below from the top wine clubs in the country.
The California Wine Club
Try the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from the Paso Robles and Central Coast region featured on The California Wine Club for $14.99. This red wine club’s option from Spring Street Winery can be aged up to 10 years.
A high-alcohol red from Winc, Rabble Merlot at $19.99 is one that can be aged for up to five years. The fruity and earthy flavor will develop a smooth body and more mellow tannins.
Rioja Sensation from Viña Izadi Crianza 2016 is a Tempranillo that ages beautifully for up to ten years. With age, it changes from fruity to leather and tobacco flavors with dust, especially when aged in oak. The wine is priced at $26.99 and $161.94 for six bottles.
The aging process can improve taste, color, aroma, and ABV of the wines by controlling the temperature, light, and heat. However, only 1% of wines are ideal for aging.