Did you know that not all wines can age? Did you also know that it isn’t just red wines that can age? Well in this blog post I’m going to give you the top four ways to know if your wine can age or if it is time to drink that bad boy bottle up!
If you’re like me, you will have been under the impression for most of your life that all red wines get better with age. Why do we think this? Because of good marketing! We grew up hearing funny phrases like:
- “Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.”
- “Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
- “Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”
But in all serious, though these are funny – wines don’t always get better with age! So how do you know if your wine is able to be aged? Let’s dig into the four ways for you to know whether or not your wines can stand against the test of time.
First off, what are tannins? Tannins are what gives your mouth that dried out taste after you swallow your red wine. This sensation is from the skins of the grapes that are in your wine. So the darker the skin of the grape the higher the tannin levels will be. Also how the long the wines have sat and fermented with the skins during the winemaking process that is being followed makes a difference too. Few tannins also come from barrels used to age wine, especially new ones.
The chemical nature of tannins evolves during the winemaking process. Wine smooths out when there is a balance between wood tannins and grapes tannin. Apart from tannins helping the wine to age, the wine should also be well- balanced so that it improves over time.
Interestingly, several white and red wines do not need tannins to age well as they are balanced well to begin with. Red wines with a higher tannin number age well as compared to red wines with lesser tannins.
When I am talking about the alcohol level I don’t just mean wines that have been fortified like Port or Sherries. Wines with alcohol levels between 9%-11% are counted as low levels of alcohol. Obviously these don’t have the levels of alcohol that will be good for aging a wine. Wines with percentage levels of alcohol between 13.5-15% are better for setting aside for a time. When you want to know more about how to age wines, you need to know about the winemaking process.
Fermentation is the step of winemaking process we’re going to focus on here. This is when the yeast is eating up all the yummy sugars from the grapes which is transforming those sugars into alcohol.
Many aspects of wine will constantly change over time and in depending on the wine, that wine can change can be for the best, while in others it may not. The changes can effect the aromas, color, and flavors of the wine. With the proper structure during the wine making process will help the wine will decide whether these changes will add to the quality of wine or not.
In this section we are going to talk about acidity and why it is actually important to aging you wines, especially your WHITE wines. Yes, even your white wines can be aged! I know, I just blew your mind a little! But it is true! One of the most notable white wines that can be aged in Chardonnay! Not everyone likes Chardonnays (trust me I know), but that is one of many examples of white wines that can be aged.
So, what is acidity? Have you ever tried a white wine that gives you that puckering sensation in the back of your jaw? That is a great example of sipping an acidic wine. This trait isn’t just found in whites though but in reds as well! When an acidic wine is aged, as it gets older it starts to “calm down” or go “flat”. This means that if you aren’t a fan of SUPER acidic wines, ones that have had time to age or mature will be better for your palate.
Location of Aging
This is a big BIG factor! Even if you have the greatest bottle of wine that has two or three of the traits we discussed above but you store it in the wrong way – no amount of alcohol or tannins will save that bottle. The best way to age your wine is NOT on top of your cabinets in your kitchen standing upright. But instead you need to find a cool, dark location that the temperature stays consistently cool with the bottles laying on their side or upside down. You want the cork to stay wet, which is why you want to have the bottle on it’s side or upside down. Below I’ve included a “rule of thumb” for bottles of wine. When you are buying wines specifically to age for long periods of time, take a moment to ask the winery or shop your buying your wines from about the three major traits above. I can’t imagine opening a special bottle of wine to open for a major anniversary or event and the wine be bad! There are no stupid questions! Ask away! To learn more about a few wineries in Woodinville Washington click here!
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