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Wine Chemistry 103:
What About Aging?


wine aging guide, aging wine at home

Now that you have successfully passed Easy Food & Wine Chemistry 101 & 102 it's time for the next lesson. What actually happens to wine as it ages and which wines can age? We answer the top questions:

#1 - Does aging matter? Yes, it truly does change the wine considerably. If you've ever tasted a wine right when it's done fermenting, it basically tastes like grape juice gone sour! It doesn't taste anything like what you buy at the store because it's aged in between, from only a few weeks, like for Beaujolais Nouveau, to the more typical year or more. Sometimes wineries will hold back a portion of a vintage for late release so you can buy it already aged, like the beautiful Rioja featured with our beef wellington recipe this week.

# 2 - What happens during aging? - The different components of the wine are interacting, and also interacting with the trace amount of air captured inevitably during bottling. Oxidation changes the taste profile of the wine from big, fruity young flavors to mature flavors. T
oward the end of the wine's life it develops distinctively oxidized flavors - it will start to taste a bit like a Madeira which is a style of wine intentionally allowed to oxidized. Also, in red wine, tannins form long chains, so the wine's astringency goes from rough to silky, and some of those chains get large enough that they precipitate out of the wine as sediment, reducing the tannins in the wine. That also explains why you get all that junk at the bottom of a well-aged bottle!

# 3 - Only red wines can age, right? Because one of the major factors that causes wines to age is oxidation, red wines generally age more gradually, because they are fermented on their skins. Tannins and other components found in the dark skins effectively act as anti-oxidants, helping preserve the wine. However, some white wines are still more than worthy for aging, and generally whites with a strong backbone of acidity have a better chance of holding up. I've had Chardonnays more than thirty years old that have still been delicious!

Here are some of the picks we have in our aging cellar. These wines are also delicious now, but we've snuck a couple away to see what happens with a few more years:

2006 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($42)
2006 Blackjack Ranch Double Down Syrah ($26)
2005 Luca Syrah, Mendoza, Argentina ($28)
2002 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($45)
2003 Domaine du Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape ($50)

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