How many times have you heard that? It is common knowledge that, over time, wine undergoes a series of complex changes that include aromas, flavours, and colours. These changes can elevate a wine to new heights and reveal an entirely new character.
Time, then, is the reason wines develop even more intricate flavours. The concept is that the longer a bottle of wine is left alone to age, the better the wine will taste. But why does this occur? What happens to wine during the ageing process?
Are All Wines Aged?
For a very long time, we didn’t completely understand the chemistry involved in the ageing process of wine. The ancient Greeks and Romans were already aware of this potential, however, and stored wines in amphorae that were then buried for many years.
Nowadays, however, most wines are not aged, and many of the ones that undergo this process do so for relatively short amounts of time. It is believed that 90% of wines across the globe are created with the intention of being consumed within only a year after being produced.
How Wines Age
Wines are a solution of alcohol, acids, phenolic and elements that add flavour – this means wine is complex and going through constant change. All components react to each other, connect and separate, break down, etc. Only to start it all over again.
Inside the closed system that is a bottle of wine, it is thought that one of the most important elements in the ageing of wine are tannins. These molecules originate from the seeds, stems and skins of grapes, and have anti-fungal properties, which makes it bitter and astringent.
As times goes on, small amounts of oxygen enter the bottle and react with the tannins, which influences the chemical reactions inside. This process needs to be slow, as if a large amount of oxygen seeps into the bottle at once, the particles in the wine will oxidise and the flavour will suffer.
As tannins deal with oxygen, they start to make the wine feel different when sipped, until it will linger pleasantly in the mouth. The amount of tannins can be chosen, which will determine if the wine will eventually mature into something rich and complex.
The Perfect Moment for Wine
It is not as challenging today as it used to be to know whether a wine has finished ageing and should be bottled, or whether it even had the potential to age for many years. Winemakers now use complex instruments and measures to ensure that a wine has attained its peak when the acidity, the tannins, and the alcohol levels are all balanced. The wine also needs to be clear of sediment and of residual CO2 gas.
Which Wines Age Better?
Vintage, wine region and the way the wine is made can influence its ageing potential. When testing vintages, sugar is also an element present in them, and some of the wines that have aged incredibly well have been sweet wines.
There are many wines that can be considered ideal for ageing, therefore, such as Syrah, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Hungarian Furmint. Vintage Port might be one of the best examples of ageing wine, as you can still find 19th-century bottles that are in excellent drinking condition. The oldest known bottle is a Ferreira from 1815.
The idea that wine always improves with age is not completely accurate, even if it is a common misconception. However, it is true that the flavour of certain wines becomes deeper and more complex with age, mainly due to what happens during their ageing process.
Whether you have younger or older wines in your wine room, we have the perfect spiral cellar for you to store them. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0203 815 3329 to learn more about our products and services or request a brochure and see exactly what we can do for you!