Does Aged Wine Tastes Better?
Not all wines are built to age. The act of “cellaring” wine implies that aged wine does indeed taste better. You have to ask yourself “ Do I enjoy aged wine? ”…Well, Do ya?
Here are a few people that have summed it up better than us…
“Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
– Joan Collins
“Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.”
― Francis Bacon
“Philosophy is like wine. There are good years and bad years but, in general, the older the better.”
― Eric Weiner,
All wine has at least some age to it
With the exception of the well-known Beaujolais Nouveau and perhaps some lesser known equivalents, such as the Italian Dolcetto or Vermentino, the vast majority of wine has at least some age to it. Beaujolais Nouveau (Made from gamay a relative to its Northern Cousin, Pinot Noir) is intended for immediate drinking, bottled only 6 to 8 weeks after harvest. The method of production means that there is higher acidity and very little tannin, with bright, fresh, red fruit flavours along with fruity ester flavours of banana, grape, fig and pear drop. While some can be kept for a few years, there is no real reason to, as it does not improve with age, compared to standard Beaujolais AOC which are released the following year and can be stored for several years before consuming.
What is age?
So, at a basic level, we could say that an aged wine could be anything older than 6 months. Given this, aged wine must taste better, or we would be drinking a lot more wine earlier than we currently do. The exact length of time is harder to determine. How old you prefer wine is much like how dark you like your toast or how strong you like your cup of tea; personal preference will vary from person to person.
Unlike the majority of food and beverage products, there is no “best before” date on a bottle of wine. It’s a subjective question… When do I like my wine? What the best age to drink my wine? Your palate decides…HINT: If you like it it’s a good wine.
As a wine ages, a complex chemical reaction occurs between sugars, acids and phenolic compounds. Over time, this reaction can affect the taste of wine in a way that is pleasing. The chemical reaction can also alter the colour, aroma and the mouthfeel of the wine. These phenolic compounds primarily come from tannins, found in the stems, skins and seeds of the grape as well as wooden barrels that some wine are aged in. So, given these criteria these wines have the potential to evolve much better with age:
- Sweet wines (sugar): Sauternes, Tokaji, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, Ice wine (Eiswein) and botrytis wines
- Higher acid wines: Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir
- Higher tannin wines: Cabernet family, Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Tempranillo
Previously, we looked at umami and how this affects our perception of flavour. Ageing is one of the processes that accentuates umami, thereby increasing the flavours of wine as it gets older and the umami levels increase. As a wine ages, it develops additional layers of complexity. Flavours develop and evolve. The acids soften and the tannins mellow. The key is to find the right balance of all these variables. HINT: Once YOU find that balance that’s’ when you will enjoy your wines.
Ageing by law
In fact, some appellations feel that ageing is so important, and the wines are not at their best for a least a minimum period of time and designate that any wine labelled under that appellation be aged for certain periods*, either in wood, bottle or both, before release. Just of few of these are:
- Champagne: 15 months for NV and 36 months for vintage
- Barolo 38 months (or 62 months for Riserva)
- Barbaresco 26 months (or 50 months for Riserva)
- Brunello may not be sold before January 1 of the 5th year following the harvest
- Rioja Crianza 2 years up to Gran Reserva 5 years ( Although Crianza + Reserva are terms seldom used in Rioja any more)
Unfortunately accountants don’t like seeing a product sit around for up to 5 or 6 years before seeing a return on investment, so a lot of wines from the new world are often released before its prime with the consumer having to buy the wine “early” and wait for it to reach its peak rather than buy the wine when it is “ready” to drink.
Have you tasted older wines?
Have you had the opportunity to actually taste older wines? Can you remember an aged wine that stood out? Like a Tahbilk Marsanne at 10 years of age, or maybe it was a beautifully aged Marc Bredif Vouvray from the Loire Valley in France, nearly 20 years old. Seeing a wine develop and change over the years is part of what makes cellaring wines so interesting. It’s great to try a wine as it’s released and then again in 2,4, 10 years and seeing how it changes and evolves. Sometimes you have to go too far to see how your own taste preferences lie. Hunter Semillon can often be a great way to do this as it is often affordable to buy a whole dozen wines and taste a bottle every 6 to 12 months and watch how the wine changes. It is a lot harder to do this with Bordeaux or Burgundy but some of the best drinking experiences could be with wines as old as ourselves. Try older Rieslings or Chardonnays, try older Cabernets or Syrahs.
They may not be your everyday wine, however, were sure that the more you explore, the more you’ll will want wines with age. Birthdays and Anniversaries will be long remembered with that special bottle of wine either from the vintage of the event or just because it has been in the cellar for some time. Your wine can define your time, explore and enjoy. Want to learn More –> Click Here for our Wine Course
Hamish Small and Luke Campbell