They say that wine, the older, the better. But it is only one sentence, it is not a general rule, since there are wines that can be aged for a long time, and others that would not stand more than two years. Why does this happen and how do we know what wines we can keep?
Also, against departure, we can hear it said that it is not true that all wines improve over time. And here it was time to expand a little more on this subject, which we have already discussed in previous notes.
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Pay attention to the following: all wines (all) improve with time in the bottle
The problem is knowing how long we are talking. Freshly bottled wine is hard, tense, if you want the expression.
You need a rest in stowage, to amalgamate its compounds and rest. It’s like the food did you see?, the next day is richer, because its ingredients are coupled. While it is true that tasting wines directly from the barrels is an exciting experience, the importance of bottle storage is superlative. Then, for certain wines, that time lapse will be a few months, and for others it will be decades.
In the case of white wines without passing through barrels, and as a general rule, we could predict a bottle aging period of between 1 and 3 years. If it were a white wine that went through barrels, that period would be extended, because the tannins provided by the wood (in harmony with the rest of the liquid compounds), have a protective, antioxidant, and polymerising effect with the molecules responsible for the colour.
In this last example, we would say that the wine would be optimal between 3 and 8 years after the harvest. Always, remember, it is in the case of wines called “quiet” (neither sweet, nor liquor, nor sparkling), and by generic rule. Of course, there are cases of white wines with barrels that are great after 10 years. But it is not the norm. On the other hand, the example of rosé wines is similar to that of whites.
That is because the tannin load is similar to that of a white barrel, since the maceration period was short (4 to 18 hours), just to get that pink colour. It will depend on the vinification technique, the maceration period, and many others. So then, we would have a wine to consume perfectly between 1 to 6 years of its harvest date. Even many white wines with casks have more structure than certain rosés.
Reaching the range of reds, the fan expands. Here the options unfold everywhere. The different types of grapes come into play, the ripening moments in the harvest, the yields, the climate, the irrigation, the winemaking, and so on. Without talking yet about whether or not the wine went through barrels, we already have a world of possibilities. Given this, we must bear in mind that the producer is the main interested in having his product consumed within the ideal margins, therefore the counter-labels are a great help, since many places the period they recommend there.
Here the consumption limits can vary from 1 to 10 years after the harvest. This is always determined by the spine of red wine, formed by alcohol, acidity and polyphenols. When these ingredients are in harmony and amounts consistent, the life expectancy of the product grows markedly. And not only that, but over time they form the famous “bouquet” of wine.
And finally, we must consider barrel aging. Depending on the type of barrel, its wood, its years of use and, of course, the time that the wine remains in it, the matter becomes even more complex. The winemaker manages these variables to obtain a harmonious result, where the years of consumption range from 2 to undetermined. You cannot put here, even in generic form, a deadline.
Although this note is intended to summarize the variables that frame how long a bottled wine can be aged, considering a number of factors, we cannot fail to recommend reading the following four articles in this column, as a way to deepen each topic in particular:
- Once the wine is bottled, how does it age?
- Guide to age the wine bottles in our house
- French oak and American oak barrels: how are they different?
- Aging treasures: Are all wines suitable for storage?
How long does a barrel last?
Oak wood barrels are the containers where wines are traditionally stored, but what do we know about oak and barrels?
Oak wood has always been used as a material for containers in direct contact with the wine as it is a material of great resistance, on the one hand, and by not altering the wine giving it a pleasant taste, on the other.
The most used containers made with oak are known as barrels, originating in the production of wines from Bordeaux (France), with a capacity for 220 litres of wine.
In practice there are two usual types of oak wood with which the barrels are made: American and French.
The Spanish oak, increasingly used, is usually only useful for those grown in Northern Spain (from Galicia to Navarra). Another alternative is the Romanian oak, little used.
The American oak is somewhat harder and its wood more productive (about 10 barrels of 220 litres per cubic meter of wood), while the French is a little softer which offers a somewhat lower productivity (6 barrels per 1 M3).
As for the taste contribution to wine, American oak offers a resin aroma and flavour, while French brings a softer aroma and flavour, with vanilla memories.
The way wood has been treated also has an impact on wine. Thus, the dried and cured oak brings less flavour but stabilizes and gives the wine a good colour. On the other hand, the oak cured with stove yields more aromatic substances to the wine, but does not stabilize the colour correctly.
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