This is the last of a two post series on giving your wine a long-lasting shelf-life. In the first post we went over how to keep a wine from actually spoiling. In this post we will go over what you should do to keep your wine's flavor fresh and alive for longer periods of time.
Now that we know how to keep a wine from spoiling, we need to know how to make it age better over longer periods of time — without losing its flavor qualities... Its goodness.
It is important to realize that from a flavor standpoint all wines have a lifecycle. They start out a little harsh; a little rough around the edges; a little bit one dimensional. This is what's meant when someone says the wine is young. Then as time passes, they slowly mature into a smoother, more flavorful wine. Depending on the quality of the grape, some wines even become complex and layered with many different flavors... something with a bit of marveling character. These wines are now considered to be in their prime.
This maturing of a wine will usually happen relatively quickly in its lifetime. Typically in the 6 to 36 month range, depending on the style of wine. After the maturing the wine is usually at its best — flavor-wise. Then very slowly, year after year, sometimes decade after decade, the wine will begin to loose its positive qualities. It will become less flavorful, more flat and lifeless, more uneventful to drink.
How fast a wine lives its life or ages-out depends partially on some know factors:
How Big The Wine Is: Big, heavy red wines that have low pH from tannins and high alcohol, will mature and age more slowly than wines that are light and delicate. So if you want a wine that will stay good in the wine rack for years and even decades, make it big.
The downside to this is that these types of wines also take a bit longer to mature and become fully worth drinking. They will stay young for longer periods of time. Usually at least 18 months and more likely to be 36 months.
How Much Air Is The Wine Allowed To Breath: Yes, wines breath, but not intentionally. In part, oxygen facilitates the aging of the wine. A slow infuse of air into the wine bottle is what is needed for optimal aging. It just so happens this is exactly what the wine bottle cork does. It allows extremely small amounts of air to come in contact with the wine over very long periods of time.
If the wine is allowed too much air in a given time period, then the wine will develop a temporary condition known as bottle sickness and in extreme cases may become over oxidized or browned. If too little air is allowed then the wine will age very, very slowly and in many cases taking it forever to achieve its full potential.
How Stable Is The Wine's Storage Temperature: This factor is related to the wine's breathing as well. If a wine is being stored in an area that has fluctuating temperatures on a daily bases or even on a seasonal bases: summer verses winter, Then it will age quicker and have a shorter life than a wine that is stored at a constant temperature.
This has to do with the expansion and contract of the wine in the bottle. As the wine becomes cooler it will contract just a little. Because it is a liquid it will contract more than the glass bottle it is in. This causes a vacuum in the bottle and miniscule amounts of air will slowly seep past the cork into the bottle.
The opposite holds true as well. As the wine becomes a little warmer, it will expand causing a small amount of pressure to build up in the wine. Air will slowly makes its way past the cork and out of the wine bottle.
How Dense Is The Wine Cork Being Used: This partially relates back to the stability of the wine's storage temperature. The more dense the cork is, the less air it will allow to seep past when under a vacuum or pressure. However, if the storage temperature is constant, the density of the cork does not really matter since vacuum and pressure are not being built up in the bottle.
- How Cool Is The Wine's Storage Temperature: This is mostly a commonsense factor. Wines that are stored at cooler temperatures will age more slowly than wines that are stored at warmer temperatures. I think this is something most of would instinctively know. Most wine experts agree that a good storage temperature for most wines is 55° F.
Just remember that all wines have a life-cycle. They start out young and green; then progress to maturity; then deplete into frailty. It's your goal to keep these wines mature as long as possible so that you can enjoy them as long a possible. That's what proper aging is all about.
This is the last post of a two post series on giving your wines amazingly long shelf-life. The previous post covers what you should do to keep your wines from spoiling.