What Happens When You Age Wine

What Happens When You Age Wine

While most wines in the United States are made to be consumed immediately, some wine enthusiasts enjoy a wine they can store for a few years to enjoy once they’ve aged. But what happens as wine ages and how does it change the flavor? Also, which wines should be aged and which ones should not?

The flavor of wine changes as it ages. When a wine is young you can taste its primary flavors like plum in Merlot or citrus in Riesling. You may also notice some secondary flavors such as vanilla or buttery notes. As wine ages, however, you start to bring out some of the more underlying flavors that come from development. Bold fruit notes could become more subdued or flavors hidden by these bolder tastes can emerge from the background like honey or earthy notes.

Texture develops and changes as well as wine ages. Dry white wines that are aged may become viscous and oily but red wines will usually feel smoother. This is because of phenolic compounds like tannins, that fall out as sediment over some time. If a wine is young these compounds repel each other and stay small enough to be suspended in the wine but as the wine ages, they can lose their charge and begin combining. This creates chains and becomes heavier and larger. Once these compounds become too large they will fall out of suspension as sediment. This is why some red wines have heavier sediment than others.

Wine color can also change with age. This is a process called oxidation. It is one of the most obvious indicators as white wines can evolve from pale or golden to amber or brown. Vivid wines may take on a tone like onion skin as they age. Reds take their color from the purple range to brown over time. The rate of oxidation will depend on the amount of air in the bottleneck after it has been sealed.

Any well-made wine can stand a chance to develop over time. Some can be aged three to five years while others specifically made for aging need more time to mellow. If you want to know if a wine can be aged, just ask your local wine clerk for advice.


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