Hello there! We have already referred to wine aging in a couple of our previous posts. We mentioned how important that is for the wine’s taste and flavors and how it can get really really good in time. However, we also stated that not all wines benefit from aging.
So how do you make a distinction between the ones that do benefit from aging and those that do no,t in order to decide on the perfect wine to age? How can you calculate wine aging potential after all? And most importantly, is it possible?
Well, there are some factors and clues that can help you in your wine aging attempts and we will explain everything here, in this post today!
Are you ready?
Let’s start by checking a little bit on the aging process so that we set some kind of “template process”…
So, first of all, what does aging offers to a wine? Aging, where possible, is meant to have a beneficial effect over the aromas, flavors and tastes of a wine. While the wine does have a good balance of the aforementioned, these three characteristics tend to get better as time passes. Ok, and how do you achieve aging in wines? Well, here is how it’s done! The starting point is actually pretty much the same. The grapes are gathered, they are crushed, then pressed into juice and put in containers, usually stainless steel ones or oak barrels, for the fermentation to take place (secondary fermentation). After that stage, the juice is a) either left there for some time to “age” and then bottled and sold or b) it is bottled immediately after the fermentation and the bottles are put in cellars, where certain conditions like temperature and humidity are pretty specific, for the aging to take place.
But how do you define whether the wine ages in the containers after the fermentation process or within bottles in cellars?
Well, you have to keep in mind some traits of the wine you are making in order to do that!
Let’s start with the list of factors that can affect wine and help you calculate the wine aging potential…
- Grape Variety
- Acidity and PH
- Steel or Oak Container
- Storage and Conditions of Storage
- Residual sugar
- Cork Types
Let’s elaborate a bit on them, shall we?
There are some grape varieties that can age and certain ones that cannot. That actually means that for some grape varieties there are no or little aging possibilities while, for others, there are a lot of aging possibilities. It mostly has to do with the certain characteristics of the grape variety and the conditions each of them is growing in, like wine region for instance.
So how about I give you some examples of wines with aging potential to keep it a bit simple to begin with?
|Wines Proper for Aging|
|Syrah / Shiraz|
|Zinfandel (not white Zinfandel)|
Keep in mind that when you see wines with one of the above wines as basic components, you can certainly assume that the aging possibilities characteristics are passed on, depending, of course, on the other wines’ characteristics included in the blend.
We have already talked about tannins in a previous post, but let’s refer to some info to recap. Tannins exist already in the grape stems, skins, etc. and remain through the whole process of winemaking, ending up being a part of the final wine. They have a high reaction to the proteins of our saliva and they create the sense of bitterness and dryness in our mouth. Last but not least, their most important characteristic is that they work as a natural antioxidants, natural preservatives that is, and therefore, a tannic wine has a lot of aging possibilities. So, the higher the tannins in the wine, the larger the aging potential of the wine. This is the reason why tannins are one of the most important factors in the aging potential of a wine and this explains why red wines mostly, become better with aging. In order to gain their red color, the juice stays in contact with the stems and grape skin for quite some time and so the tannins are more in red wines. Most white wine winemaking does not involve the contact of juice with the grape skins and consequently white wines are not high in tannin content.
Acidity and PH
Acidity and pH are also wine characteristics we have already talked about. However, we did not refer at all to their contribution in wine aging. Acidity is the sensation of crispness we feel in the mouth right? And of course, it is directly connected to the pH. Remember the all “the lower the pH, the higher the acidity”? Well, check how it falls into the aid-factors in the aging process.
We need the acidity in wines for them to taste good and make us feel as if we wanted more, right? However, as time passes acidity tends to fade away and the wine tastes flat. But what happens when a wine is high in acidity and consequently lower in pH? It actually lasts longer as we can preserve it for a longer period of time and still taste great when we drink it of course! So that means that a high acidity – low pH wine has greater aging potential! Do you imagine what it would be like tasting a wine with low acidity – high pH after trying to age it? It would definitely feel indifferent, to say the least.
So, alcohol is basically formed in wine during the fermentation process, when yeast turns the sugars of the grape juice into carbon dioxide and ethanol. Ethanol is alcohol. But how does alcohol help a wine age? In fact, it doesn’t! Let me give a bit more info on that. Have your tried tasting a dry wine high in alcohol content after some small period of aging time? Well, in case you haven’t, it should taste more like vinegar rather than dry wine. However, the same doesn’t apply for fortified wines. Even though, they tend to have a higher percentage of alcohol due to the addition of a distilled spirit, fortified wines tend to last the longest.
As a conclusion try to keep in mind that high alcohol wines, except for fortified wines, do not have a high aging potential.
Steel or Oak Container
Another significant factor contributing in the wine’s aging potential is whether the container, during the fermentation process or during aging for some wines, is a stainless steel one or an oak one. You see, stainless steel does not interfere at all with the wine, even though it is its container, it does not add to its flavors, aromas or tastes in any way possible. Oak containers or barrels, on the other hand, things change slightly!
Oak barrels, due to their structure, contain phenolic compounds. In “our world”, that is translated to our commonly known tannins. Do they ring a bell? Of course, they do! Tannins are the natural preservative components found in the grape stems and skins and help in the protection of wine through time. Another translation? In wine aging!
Earlier we talked how tannins are more common in red wines, however, we did not mention how some white wines get some kind of tannin content. Well, this is your answer! White wines can get their tannic content through oak barrels! Of course, the same applies for red wines, they can also ferment in oak containers as well. Anyway, no matter the kind of wine, you should remember that oak containers – barrels add tannic compounds to the wine they contain.
Storage and Conditions of Storage
We refer to storage and storage conditions when we talk about bottled aged wine, naturally. As we know, bottles meant to be aged, are kept in cellars. Well, the reason is that they should remain away from sunlight, in a cool steady temperature. You see, cool temperature and a certain level of humidity, prevent a wine from aging quickly and eventually go bad instead of becoming better. On the contrary, high temperature and abrupt temperature changes (from a cool environment to a warm one and back) can prove detrimental for the wine. Moreover, humidity should also exist in a certain level, in order for the wine not be affected negatively.
That is meant in the way that the bottles are usually enclosed with corks. Corks should not dry out in any possible way, right? For the inner side of the cork, that can be ensured by setting the bottles on the side so that the wine stays in contact with the cork. However, what can you do for the other side of it? The only answer until now, at least, is for the place of storage to have some percentage of humidity.
On top of that, sunlight exposure may lead to premature oxidation for the wine. That happens because light has an immediate reaction with the tannins in the wine. Dark places are the solution to this problem.
So, slow aging allows for the wine to develop the best of its traits and that is what we aim for! Cool places like cellars where the temperature is relatively steady or wine refrigerators where the conditions are completely controlled, is what you most definitely need! So, as you can easily understand storage and the storage conditions are two of the most important factors contributing to the aging potential of a wine. Certain temperature range, humidity level and no light should be priority No1 when attempting to age wine.
Well, residual sugar is admittedly not a very important component for wine aging. Quite notable is the fact that sweet wines like Sauternes, Sherry and Port are some of the longest aged wines. Now that is quite important to refer to!
Cork types seem to be a matter of discussion these days as far as to how they affect the aging ability for the wine, nonetheless, no definite outcome has been set yet.
All these are guesses of course! The above factors can help you to significantly calculate the aging potential of a wine, however, there are always unpredictable complications one can encounter with, which will ultimately be enough to alter somewhat the expected result. On the other hand, taking the above into consideration, will increase your chances of having and good aged wine at the end of the day.
So, let’s have a list of what we learned today about how to calculate wine aging potential!
- Grape Varieties, Tannins, Acidity and pH, Alcohol, Container Type, Storage and Storage Conditions, Residual Sugar and Corks are important factors when it comes to calculating wine aging potential.
- Aging is a process used for certain wines to develop more complex characteristics like aromas, flavors and tastes.
- Some grape varieties and wines consequently have greater aging potential than others. Chardonnay, Chablis, Merlot and Syrah / Shiraz have a lot of aging potential.
- Tannins are important natural preservatives for the wine and able to protect it as time passes.
- Wines with high acidity and low pH content are more likely to preserve a wine’s crispness and tartness, and therefore, they are preferable for aging to the low acidity – high pH wines.
- When it comes to alcohol content, choose low alcohol wines. Some high alcoholic fortified wines are an exception, though.
- Oak containers and barrels have tannins in their structure, which they can transfer to the wine they contain. Stainless steel ones have no effect at all.
- Cool steady temperatures provide that the wine ages slowly and therefore, properly in order for the wine characteristics to evolve in a positive way.
- Storage and storage conditions are two of the most important factors for the wine aging potential. Remember! Certain temperature range, humidity level and no light!
- Sweet wines are the most long-aged wines, even though residual sugar does not play any particular role to aging for the rest of the wine types.
So keep the above in mind, give it a try and see if your calculations were right!
Do you think there are other important factors when it comes to calculating wine aging potential? Please pay a few minutes to share your thoughts with me!I would be happy to discuss any additions to the matter…How can you calculate the wine aging potential after all? And most importantly, is it possible? Click To Tweet