Archive for June, 2013


When is it time to open the bottle of wine

Barrel and bottle aging of wine are  necessary, final components to the long process of converting grape juice into wine before it is distributed for sale. Aging is one step vintners use to help balance wine.  Right after bottling,wine goes through changes that generally require a year or more for the fruit, tannins, sugar and acid to harmonize so that one component doesn’t overwhelm the others. Wines with softer tannins require less aging in the bottle, while those with firmer structure evolve better with a few extra months or years.Whites wines need much less againt time than reds.

To protect wine from the bad effects of heat and light aat home,  it’s crucial to store bottles at cool temperatures in a dark place because time has an effect on wine. Heat as well as variations in temperature together with light have an adverse effect on what’s in the bottle over time.  A wine refrigerator does the best job, but thoughtful approach to storage helps. In any case, Wine isn’t assured of infinite shelf life even under the best conditions, but continues to evolve, soemtimes disastrously.

The moment you choose to pour the wine from bottle to glass is a personal decision. Some of us like our wines young. Others like to see wine with some age. Drinking bottles from one producer and same vintage over time offers a comparison of how wine changes over time.



Many markers that show a human’s age: wrinkles, arthritis, osteoporosis, and poor vision. Botox, Clairol, exercise and plastic surgery can mask some of the signs. Wines also unfortunately fall prey to degenerative processes. But how can we tell when our wines are over the hill? The first thing is to understand what keeps wine young. Acidity’s crucial role insures flavor and acts as a preservative. Without acidity (which should never  taste obtrusive), wines won’t age well. In the same way good genes and proper nutrition help determine our life span, careful crafting of a proper balance of alcohol, residual sugar, some amount of tannnis and acidity are factors that determine a wine’s longevity. Proper storage is also crucial.

A date on a label is a first clue. Shelf life for most white wines is about five years. But like some humans who break records to reach venerable old age, Rieslings and some Chardonnays are exceptions.  Off-color is a telltale, unmistakable of the condition of wine. Both red and white wines should be clear and bright, not hazy or cloudy. White wines ranging from almost clear to pale or deep gold, but aging whites take on unpleasant flavors and a brownish tinge of caused by oxidization. A vinegary smell is a wine’s equivalent of bad body odor. On the other hand, tiny harmless, colorless tartrate crystals can occur as a natural process in mature white wine with no affect on taste.

Reds show their age differently. There is a gradual change from wondrous hues of deep purple-red, to still-acceptable ruby, to less-than-desirable brick-red and finally to over-the-hill tawny. Pinot noir and Granache are naturally paler and do not age for as long as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Shiraz (Syrah). The last four hold their own longer, but they, too, fall prey to over-aging. The bad news is that rejuvenation is impossible once wines are over the hill.  It’s the way of all flesh.

June 2013
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