wine aging guide

Wine aging guide: Everything you need to know

Why do we age wine?

Why old wine is expensive?

How do you know if a wine will age well?

The wine aging is, directly and indirectly, related to the quality of the wine. While grapes and grape juice get spoiled over time, the wine becomes tasty when it gets old.

The tannins and acids which are harsh in a young wine become smooth in a glass of aged wine. Hence they are liked by many and the cost of aged wines increases with their age.

Each vintner follows some wine aging guide which will help them understand the aging capability of the wine.

wine aging guide
Wine rack

There are many factors that will influence the aging of the wine, the most important of all the factors is the grape variety and the region of its origin.

There is a certain period of time for each wine when it tastes the best. For example, the rose wine is not good for aging, it tastes the best within a year of production.

Young red wines are wines within 3 to 5 years of production.

According to Kevin Zraly, not all wines’ taste improves with age. 90percent of wines are consumed in their first year of production and only 1 percent are aged for more than 5 years.

Wine aging process

The process of aging the wine also plays an important role in the quality of the wine. The addition of alcohol fortifies some wines, the result is the sweet wines with high alcoholic content. These port wines are capable of aging for decades.

The aging process includes a lot of patience and effort. More space is needed for the barrels and a separate merchant class has evolved particularly for storing and aging the wine. As the wine aging process is costly and not so easy, not all wines are meant for aging. Some cheap wines are avoided aging.

Aging does not add any flavors to the wine.

In the early stages of consumption, more fruit flavors will be observed in the taste, and while at the latter stage, the fruity flavors decrease and the wines’ taste becomes pleasant and tastier.

In general, the fruity flavors deteriorate after 6 months of the bottle aging.

Not all wines are meant for aging.

Light-bodied wines with less alcohol and less sweetness can not last long and they deteriorate rapidly. Sweeter wines and more alcoholic wines can age for decades because of their sweetness.

For example, Riesling which has a combination of acidity and sweetness is capable of aging well.

Wine aging Process

After fermentation when the wine is ready, the wine gets shifted to oak barrels for storage.

When they are aged enough they are bottled and are released. In general, if a wine is aged 5 years it spends 3 years in oak barrels and two years in a bottle.

If the age is good enough the bottle is consumed immediately after buying, or it is stored for some more time to increase the age.

Wine aging barrels

Barrels are used traditionally for the storage of wines.

After fermentation, and before bottling wine is preserved in oak barrels for a specified period of time. This is also termed oak barrel aging.

During this time the wine gets matured, the flavors mix with one another, and their integration brings taste to the wine.

How long the wine spends in the barrels is ultimately decided by the manufacturer of the wine.

 wine aging barrels
oak barrel wine aging

There are oak barrels and steel barrels used in this process. Again the barrel selection is also left with the winemaker.

Oak barrels are again of two types European oak and American white oak.

The aging of the wine depends on the size and type of oak. Oak barrels add the flavors of wood to the wine.

Young wines generally have tannins in them, and oak generally imparts its tannins to the wine helping the wine structure to become stronger, and these tannins from the oak help in the longevity of the wine.

Oak barrels generally help to add the following aromas to wines

  • Vanilla
  • Caramel
  • Baking spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg
  • Smoke
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Toffee/burnt sugar

Stainless steel barrels do not impart any oaky flavors.

They are generally used to store white wines that are less tannin in nature and also some of the less tannin red wines.

Steel barrels don’t let the oxygen enter the wine, making the fruity flavors keep intact with the wine and help in integrating the flavors while aging.

Storage Temperature

According to Professor Karen Macneil, wines are to be stored in a cooler region of 10 degrees where the wine gets aged more slowly and gradually increases the aromas and flavors.

The cork closure

Cork has an important role in the aging process of the wine. It lets oxygen pass through its holes and helps in better oxidation.

 wine aging process
Wine bottle corks

Studies have shown that larger bottles of size 3 liter age more slowly than 750 ml bottles and closed bottle caps and synthetic corks have blocked the aging potential.

Wine aging Chart

Red wine aging chart

red wine aging chart

White wine aging chart

White wine aging chart

Dessert Wine aging chart

Port Non-Vintage, tawny 0-5 years
Port Vintage 10-20+ years

Champagne aging chart

Champagne, non-vintage 0-2 years
Champagne, Vintage 5-10 years

Wine aging Guide

How do you know if wine can age well?

Let us start with dessert wines,

We all know that Port wines can survive over decades which clearly shows that Wines with high amounts of sugars and alcohol, the fortified wines are meant for aging.

Also, Madeira wines are said to have the longest aging capability, these wines can last for centuries too.

The reason being their oxidation during their transportation. These are cooked wines, where the wine gets aged by the temperature and heat making it long-lasting.

Botrytized wine aging
Noble rot grapes

And the Sherry wines, where grapes are sweetened with noble rot or botrytis cinerea resulting in the botrytized wines, can age from 5 to 25 years.

In general the lesser water in the grapes, the higher the aging potential. Hence ice wines have good aging potential.

While coming to red wines, the main ingredient in red wine is the polyphenols found in the skin of the grapes, the wine is fermented with skin and hence the polyphenols are more. The more polyphenols in the wine, the greater the aging capacity. Polyphenols are good for health.

Malbec and Muscadine grapes are said to have thick skin, as they are from a cooler region. They have a good amount of polyphenols and are good for aging.

The other important factor in aging is the tannins. The higher amount of tannins means that the wine can be aged for a longer period of time.

White wine, on the other hand, has a lesser amount of polyphenols as the wine is made from the juice of the grapes without any contact with the grape skin. However, tannins are found in the white wine because of the oak barrel aging and oak chips.

The aging factor with respect to the white wine is its acidity. The more acidic the white wine is, the longer it can be aged. Acidity acts as a preservative in white wine like the tannins in red wine.

Rose wines are made with minimal contact with the skin of the grape. Rose wines have less aging potential compared to red and white wines. These are consumed early.

Champagne wine aging
Champagne

Sparkling wines like champagne are not aged and are meant to be consumed early, however, the acidity in champagne adds to its aging capability and the result is the vintage champagne varieties.

Which wines are good for aging?

The ratio of sugars, acids, and phenolic compounds play an important role in the aging capability of the grapes. Tannins not only give good pigment but also are responsible for keeping the structure of the wine. They help the wine by acting as preservatives.

Excessive filtering is not good for aging, as it removes the polyphenols.

Wines having the following factors are good for aging. Next time when you bring a bottle of wine check for these factors and if satisfied, you can leave them on the rack to age and taste better.

1.Body 

Wines with heavy and medium bodies are good for aging.

2.Sweetness

Sweet wines are good for aging.

3.Tannins

The more tannins the wine has, the longer it can last.

4.Acidity

Acidic wines age perfectly over time.

What does aging do to the wine?

Aging improves the quality of the wine. During the aging process, the wine undergoes a chemical reaction that includes the sugars, acids, tannins, and polyphenols.

This chemical reaction changes the wine structure and the overall wine characteristics. Wine which was highly intense and fruit-flavored becomes smooth and pleasant.

The color and the smell undergo change and the flavors become mature enough to give a pleasing taste.

aged wine
Aged wine

Flavors:

The fresh fruit flavors in the young wine which are dominant are tuned to dried fruit flavors.

The tannins and acids which were harsh in the young wine become smooth as the wine ages and they become gentle and tasty.

Colour:

Red Wines with low PH or acid have purple color and red wine with high acidity is bright red in color, as the wine ages the red wine loses its color, the depth of the color is lost with orange color in the edges and it changes to brick followed by tawny color.

Brown color red wine means that the wine has reached the stage beyond its aging capability.

White wine on the other hand is lemon yellow or pale in color when it is young 

Aging changes its color to bright gold followed by amber color to brown.

wine color by aging
Wine Color by aging

Eventually, the wine reaches its maximum point of maturity or peak aging where its tannins, acids, and other flavors are smoothened of their complexity. This varies from wine to wine and once the peak is reached, the wine starts to change or deteriorate.

 Not all wines are meant for aging. It is assumed that 90 percent of the wines produced are consumed within a year of production and 99 percent are consumed within 5 years.

Aging depends upon many factors and the main ability of a wine to age is the grape variety and its place of origin. With aging not only the quality but also the price increases, making it expensive.

How long can a wine age before it goes bad?

The maximum time one can keep a wine bottle unopened depends on the type of the wine and its storage. The aging of wine depends on the grape variety and its characteristics. As discussed above there are many aging factors contributing to the long life of the wine.

The storage of the wine also plays an important role in the longevity of the wine,

Generally, wines are stored in dark places, this is because the sunlight causes the wine to get oxidized rapidly and leads to early maturity.

Also, the temperature of the storage is an important consideration as it changes the aging process significantly. Wines stored at a very low temperature may slow up the aging process and wines stored at high temperature may accelerate the aging process by 10 times.

Hence it is not advisable to store in the freezer or in the attic where the temperature is high.

wines good for aging
Dark Wine cellar

Store in your basements of wine cellars where there is no sunlight and the temperature is moderate which is not so cool and not so hot.

Always the bottle should be positioned either upside down or sideways, there is a reason behind this placement. The cork of the wine bottle which plays a major part in the aging gets dried over a period of time, hence to prevent it, the wine is made to be in contact with the cork making the cork moist and wet.

Suddenly you found a wine bottle in your wine rack which you have not noticed for long, the question now arises is, whether you should drink it or leave it.

Check the use by or best by date, and In general, the wines can be consumed,

1-2 years after the expiration date in the case of white wines.

And 3-4 years in the case of red wines.

Check the smell and structure of the wine once opened and taste a sip to confirm whether the wine is fine or not. Generally, the grape variety and the year of made is the clear indication of whether the aging has been done correctly or not.

What if you are alone in drinking and want to consume moderately by limiting yourself to one glass a day, how long an opened bottle of wine lasts?

Bottle once opened, wine gets oxidized to the light and heat in the surroundings and to stop this chemical reaction and to store, it is advised to keep them chilled in a fridge to stop the process of oxidation.

Red wine bottle once opened lasts for 3 to 6 days. 

White whine lasts for 3 to 5 days.

Rose wine lasts for 4 to 7 days.

Champagne or sparkling wine lasts for 1-2 days.

And dessert wines last for 7 days while port wines can last for 3 weeks.

Hence it is always recommended to keep the bottle tightly sealed and place it in a refrigerator once opened.

Can old wine make you sick?

Can you drink a 100-year-old wine?
The vintage of wine doesn’t mean the wine is old, it indicates the place where the grapes are from and the year of making. Vintage wines contain the grapes that are produced during that particular year’s harvest, and they are meant for aging. Nonvintage wines have grapes from different harvests for one or 2 years.

R√∂merwein aus Speyer. Speyer wine bottle is the oldest wine known, that is found in the tomb of a Roman nobleman and woman in  Speyer Germany. It can be found in the historical museum in Germany.

It is assumed to be from 325 AD. The Romans when they buried their noble king has buried this wine for them.

The wine inside the Speyer bottle was examined, and they found out that the alcohol content was lost. The preservative used was a thick layer of olive oil that had prevented the oxidation of the wine and the sealing was done with wax.

100 year old wine
source: Wikipedia ,Speyer wine

Not all wines are meant for aging. Only 2 percent of the wines age decently and their quality increases while staying on the rack for long years. Many people assume falsely that all the wines taste best when consumed after a period of time.

But the fact is, some wines taste the best when they are consumed immediately after they are bought.

If you keep them for long, they will lose color, flavors, and finally, they taste like vinegar. And when such wines are consumed unknowingly, they will affect your health.

The smell, color, and taste of such wines can definitely make you sick. To prevent such side effects, always check for the following factors before trying such a bottle of wine.

Check the color of the wine in the bottle

The red wine loses its color when the wine gets aged over time, it changes from dark red to brick color. But if the color of your Pinot Noir has changed to brown, you can clearly know that the wine got spoiled.

Also, the white wine when it gets aged nicely gets a tint of golden yellow color to the wine. If the wine gets changed to a deep yellow or brownish straw color assume that the wine is bad.

Check the structure of the wine

Wine gets fizzy even though it is red and not sparkling.

This is because of the astringent flavours arising, as a result of getting spoiled.

Check the smell of the wine

If the wine goes bad, the smell of the wine gives you a remainder of paint thinner or it smells like a nail polish remover.

If you observe such kinds of smells, immediately avoid the wine.

And final test is

Check the taste of the wine

The wine will have a sour taste on your tongue which is similar to vinegar.

This confirms the spoiling of the wine.

Just take a sip to make sure that the wine has gone bad.

Wine aging tool

The study has been done on the artificial methods of wine aging. As we have discussed earlier, the cool temperature makes the wine age slowly and the high temperature accelerates the wine process by 10 times, hence to age wine faster sometimes wine is exposed to high temperature. This technique is used in Madeira wines where the wine gets cooked by the heat.

There are some other methods of aging the wine.

Other than the heat, some other methods like high voltage electricity and ultrasonic waves, magnetic waves are used in the aging process resulting in faster maturity.

Some artificial aging gadgets were also discovered.

And one such wine aging tool is Clef du Vin.

It is a metallic instrument that is dipped inside the wine, it determines the wine’s aging potential.

It ages the wine rapidly, for each second of its dipping, the wine matures by one year.

The usage of this tool has got mixed responses.

Wine aging magnet

Wine Aging magnets are capable of aging the wine in a few minutes.

Tannins are molecules that are found in large numbers from hundreds to thousands in wine. These tannins come from the grape skin and seeds. The fermentation process in oak barrels also imparts tannins to the wine. In young wines, the tannins react with each other and are harsh, and have a bitterness on the tongue. They often constrict the throat.

But tannins are full of polyphenols and are good for health. Tannins act as preservatives and help in the aging of wine. When the wine gets aged, these tannins combine with each other forming bigger and large molecules and the molecular structure becomes round. Hence aged tannins are smoother and round. Magnetic field speeds up this process.

Surrounding the bottle of wine with magnets creates a magnetic field.

Magnetic fields created by the magnets act as an aging accelerator. When entering the bottle of wine, can reduce the tannins and make the wine taste good with a smoother mouthfeel.

Aging is a chemical process and it needs to be done naturally. Although these may sound magical there is no proper proof and recommendation. Let the wine reach its age by itself and enjoy its maturity.

2 thoughts on “Wine aging guide: Everything you need to know”

  1. Hey Harshita,

    That’s a well written article on wine ageing process.

    Being from a Hotel Management Background and now turned Web Developer and Blogger, it was a cool read an to refresh and revise my knowledge on wines and ageing.

    Nice informative Article!!!

    Regards
    Jackson
    Learn WP Tutorials

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