15 Mar Another good year
– A Wine Bluffer guide
Last month we talked about what the term ‘vintage’ means for wines in the bottle. You can read that post here.
Now that we’ve established how a good – or indeed a bad – vintage comes about then we start to think why is it that some wines age better than others and how we can select a great year.
This brings us to choosing wine that has matured for some years in bottle. Not all wine is meant to be aged in the bottle, in fact the vast majority of wines produced are meant to be consumed within a year. Red wines because of their tannin content will generally age longer than whites. Over time the complex constituents in the wine interact to create interesting characteristics and the tannins are precipitated out for a rounder mouth feel. So, wines do change with age and some do get better but generally, most do not.
Wines that do last more than five years in the bottle can also attribute their longevity to the year of production (vintage). In a good year, in other words one with the ideal weather conditions, wines tend to have a better balance of fruits, acids and tannins, giving them the potential to last longer. Sulphites are preserving chemicals added during production and are harmless, despite the claims of environmentalists. If you drink organic or biodynamic wine then you can usually avoid sulphites but the wine has a longevity of only a year or so.
Other contributing factors are the length of time the wine remains in contact the grape’s skins during the part of the fermentation process known as maceration, and then storage in old oak barrels. Both allow tannins to build-up, which naturally preserve the wine.
It’s also important that wine is stored properly or laid down as we say. Temperature, light levels, humidity etc all play their part and are really pretty obvious. You wouldn’t keep your bottle of Ch. Lafitte on a sunny window sill any more that you would a bottle of milk.
Meanwhile choosing a good vintage is easy with vintage charts for most wine regions of the old world available online. This means that when one is confronted by a baffling list of clarets in one’s club, one can check out the good years on the mobile under the table cloth.
Apart from this you may ask yourself, ‘When is a wine ready to drink?’. So again, most vintage charts will tell you when wines should be ‘drunk up by’ so that you enjoy them at their best. And as wine expert Kevin Zraly says ‘The answer is very simple: when all components of the wine are in balance to your particular taste.’ Now (pats pockets), where is my corkscrew?