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Wine Aging

28 de January, 2021

What really happens with the aging of wine? Do all wines get better with age? Today I'll talk to you about this topic, which for many will be a kind of myth. Sometimes we say that such a person is like wine, because he gets better with age. But what is the basis of this popular expression?

There is something curious about this, since 95% of wine is made to be drunk young, being produced to be drunk that year and with potential to age 3 to 5 years. If this is so, what then is the effect of time on a wine? Knowing the answer to this question is essential to be able to decide whether to let it age or drink today the wine you just bought.


What is wine aging?

What is wine aging anyway? Wines are the result of the alcoholic fermentation of grape must. It is when fermentation ends that the aging of a wine begins. However, we winemakers prefer to divide wine aging into two phases.

The first one we call the wine stage. It is the most oxidative phase, which takes place before bottling, and which can take place in oak barrels or simply in storage, be it stainless steel or cement.

The second phase is the aging that happens when the wine is already in a bottle. It is aging in a reducing environment, that is, in an environment where oxygen is scarce. And it is this kind of aging that I am writing about today.


To mature or to age a wine?

To mature or age a wine is a decision that involves knowing the aging potential of the wine chosen. The thing is, we don't always know the wine that is in the bottle to be able to make that decision safely. In the same way we don't know for sure how long that wine may be aging in the bottle.

To minimize risks, my first advice is: always buy 12 bottles of a wine you want to age, because that way you can annually taste one of the bottles and know the path the wine is taking. Another advice I want to leave: always taste one of the bottles right away to know if the wine has aging potential or not. 


What characteristics must a wine have in order to age?

Generally speaking, a wine with higher acidity and greater structure will always have better aging capacity. If you think that more alcoholic wines have greater aging capacity, you are wrong. The greatest proof of this are the wines from Colares, from the Ramisco grape variety, which have been proven to age well for decades and have low alcohol content.

                         “Tenha em conta que estes vinhos de grande potencial de envelhecimento são bastante austeros quando jovens.

And that is why some of the best wines in the world are only released to the market with several years of bottle aging. A good example in Portugal is Barca Velha. In Australia, the Grange; in France, Romané Conti; and in California, the Opus One. At Casca Wines all our wines from old vineyards are aged for at least two years before being released.

Wine aging process

The aging process of wine is complex and depends on various factors, internal and external, such as the place of aging or the type of closure used in the bottle. But one thing is certain, the aging process is essentially a oxidation in a reducing environment.

               Let's get to what happens inside the bottle. 

The aromas originating in the grape are called primary aromas and develop until bottling. Then there are the secondary aromas, originating in the fermentation. Once in the bottle, tertiary aromas develop as a result of aging, such as honeyed, herbal, earthy, or mushroom and dried fruit aromas. This is due to the reactions that keep happening between acids and alcohols. 

The texture also changes. White wines gain viscosity. In red wines, tannins - which are responsible for structure - bind with other phenolic compounds and become larger and hence heavier molecules, precipitating and creating the deposit common in aged wines. These processes transform the flavor of the wines, softening the edges of youth and also transforming the colors and hues. 


Is wine aging physical or chemical?

In the aging of wines the processes are chemical, but also physical. Since the birth of wines, chemical processes induce transformations that refer to physical processes. Or put another way, the precipitations that often occur in the aging of wine are the result of physical processes which originate from compounds that are chemically interconnected

To conclude... don't let a wine become old. If such a wine is to age, let it age and allow it to gain maturity and character with age. Give time to time. And when the time comes to enjoy it, do it on a special occasion. You will then see age and history turn into a moment of pleasure that will remain in your memory.  


Hélder Cunha

My life is the wine

Alguma questão ou sugestão de tema? Por favor, escreva para: blogdoenologo@cascawines.pt

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