Aged Wine How to Buy

Whether you are new to wine or have been drinking wine for decades, you are probably familiar with the concept of aging wine. There is a lot of misinformation and assumptions that are made in regards to how wine should be aged and whether or not a wine should be aged. The answers to these questions are not always straightforward and simple, so let’s try to straighten some things out. 

First and foremost, we age wine in hopes of it improving with more time spent in the bottle. So assuming that a wine will improve with time, what is actually improving about it? One of the major factors that effects wine as it sits in a bottle is oxygen. Oxidation of aromatic compounds results in more mature flavors in wine often referred to as tertiary aromas (primary being native to the fruit, secondary caused by winemaking decisions). The presence of these tertiary aromas adds complexity to the wine, common aromas of an older wine are leather and tobacco (both of which are commonly oxidized products). Typical drinking windows are based around when these tertiary aromas are balanced with the primary and secondary aromas before they completely dominate the nose. 

Aside from the oxidation of aromatics, the body of a wine changes as well. Tannins begin to react with the color compounds of red wines forming much larger compounds that precipitate out of the wine. This causes a thin layer of sediment in the bottle, which is often best to try to decant the wine off of unless of course, you prefer to chew your wine. The precipitation causes a shift in color of red wines, moving more in the direction of tawny as opposed to lighter ruby and dark purple colors. As tannins form larger compounds and precipitate out, the wine will develop a softer, silkier mouthfeel. Contrary to popular belief there are also white wines that will age well, white Burgundy, white Bordeaux, and Riesling have all had extremely successful examples. Generally speaking, white wines need to have a substantial amount of acidity to age well, as there aren’t tannins or anthocyanins (color compounds) to take the impact of oxygen.

If you are considering buying wine that has been aged, or if you are thinking of starting your own cellar to age wine, there are things you should consider. First, is the wine that you are buying something that will improve with age? The vast majority of wine isn’t going to improve with much aging beyond its release date. That doesn’t mean that the wine isn’t inherently good, it just isn’t necessarily meant to be aged. A good way to determine whether any given wine will age well, is to open a bottle. Something to look for is to drink a glass after opening it, put the cork back into the bottle and let it sit until the next day. If it tastes better the second day, this is a wine that will likely improve with age. You should also consider how long a wine should age before it is past its prime and loses all of its fruit character. At a certain point all wine starts to turn, it either becomes flabby on the palate, or the tertiary aromas completely overwhelm the nose. The idea with aging the wine is to open the bottle when all of the components are balanced and working together harmoniously. 

In addition to the wine itself, you should consider if you have a place with the necessary conditions for long term aging of wine. Wine likes to be left in the dark, at a constantly cool temperature. Warm temperatures speed up the aging process and if the wine freezes the bottles or closures usually break. The most important thing to consider is whether you like aged wine or not. The less fruit forward profile of old wine isn’t for everyone, there are plenty of people that genuinely don’t enjoy wine once it losses all that vibrant fruit it had in its youth. Once you are able to address all the above concerns, and you like your wine with some age on it, you are ready to start your own wine collection. 

For more information about Big Hammer Wines’ Aged Wines collection or to order, Click HERE.

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Big Hammer Wines

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