We’ve all heard that old saying, “wine gets better with age.” Have you ever wondered why over time, the aromas, flavours and colours of wine undergoes complex changes, turning into something entirely new? To provide some insight, Ideal Wine Company explains what happens to wine as it ages?
Industry expert Anne Krebiehl MW recently explained the wine aging process to Decanter. She described wine as a kaleidoscope, where the same components continually form new images. At varying speeds and combinations, the different elements of wine connect, disband, break down, hydrolyse and then reconnect again, creating constant changes in our favourite tipple over time.
With this process, no wine will taste the same at any two points. When it comes to how different tastes develop, we know that they emerge due to the above described process, but little else. We still don’t understand, for instance, why hints of herb, petals, mushrooms honey, stone or earth may suddenly appear in a wine, or how fresh flavours can evolve to evoke dried or even candied fruits.
But we do know something about how age can alter a wine’s character. Take red wines like the Chateau Haut Brion 1996, a beautiful Bordeaux you can buy from Ideal Wine Company, for example. Over time in the “phenolic compounds” in these wines de-nature, creating long chains. This reduces the wine’s surface area, decreasing its astringency, allowing reds to become smoother over time. Sometimes, these chains also become so large, that they create sediment in wine.
The passage of time can also have a dramatic impact on the shade of wine. New whites typically possess a straw hue but as the days roll by, they become increasingly golden, before turning amber. Meanwhile, red wines are often crimson or purple at first. However, as they age, these products transition into fantastic shades of garnet and vermillion, reflecting their changing flavour profiles.
Does this mean that wine always tastes better with age? Not necessarily. The higher quality the wine, the more likely its taste is to improve with age, so it’s always wise to buy fine wines. But wines can go off when they’re exposed air, breeding bacteria that kick-start oxidisation. This is a big problem for wines with corks, which have little holes that let air inside the bottle, facilitating oxidisation.
So basically, it is key that as a wine collector, you learn how to store wine, so that it can benefit from, rather than suffer under, the aging process. It is wise to create your own wine cellar, with the appropriate temperature and ideal humidity for wine storage. Also remember to store wines with corks in them on their side, so the liquid can block these little holes, ensuring air cannot seep inside.