Aging wine-In Vino Veritas
Today I want to discuss wine aging. How can we tell if a wine will age well or not?
As passionate wine lovers, we dream of that moment where we put our lips in a cup of wine that is older than us. We’ve heard or read stories of those perfect old wines giving you chills after the first sniff in the glass. My epiphany arrived in 2010 when Villar D’Allen, a famous Port merchant family with long Port history asked my sister and I to create a blend for them. After a dinner in their historic estate, they forged in me long living memories of the perfect taste from an 1827 Vintage Port.
Aging wine was not only a fashion or a tradition, it was mandatory. Most of the great wines were not approachable in their youth and you had to keep them in your cellar for the harsh structure and flavours to smoothen or disappear. Only in the last 50 years we’ve studied oenology(the science of winemaking) seriously. We’ve learned more about ripeness and what part of the grape brings which component or flavour to the final wine. Combined with greater knowledge and prediction of weather forecast, we are able to harvest higher quality grapes, thus making much better wine and more approachable wines in their youth. This is equally true for still wines and Port wines, especially Ruby that ages in the bottle.
In the last 30 years, we’ve seen a race to make bigger wines, riper wines, bolder wines with no rough edges, great amounts of new oak flavours and increasing amount of residual sugar to hide the defects. Have we gone too far in this search of instant gratification, have we distanced ourselves too much from the essence of wine?
At Quevedo, we’ve decided to observe a moderate position meaning we do not take shortcuts that could amputate our wine aging potential but we also embrace some of the modern knowledge to make our wines better in their youth. We believe our wines should express its location and origin first before any other outside flavours. We are making wine not oak infusion. Oak is like salt and pepper, it brings complexity and it should not overtake the meal. We want our wines to be very good when we bottled them. But we do not want to sacrifice their future in any way, we hope that every wine we produce will be better and improve with some age in the bottle.
This is a tremendous task to find the perfect balance between each component to ensure the wine will evolve and improve instead of simply surviving in the bottle. Tannins, acidity, flesh, pH, extraction… Too much of one, not enough of the other and the wine that look promising will probably fall apart after a few years. We are coming back to a balance but for too many years some believed the bigger the wines, the better they will age. Balance is always the key for wine aging, tannins are great antioxidants, acidity is just as well and it keeps the wine fresh, especially for the whites.
Here are the keys when trying to figure out if a wine will age well. Balance and length of flavours on the palate are the 2 best components to look for. Some wines leave a very long presence on the palate but if it is because of the tannic structure, the strength of the alcohol or the bite of the acidity, these are signs of unbalanced wines, some will survive but few will evolve in the way that your patience will be rewarded. Another important piece of information that nowadays is easy to find, information from previous vintage. Look around and look how wine lovers are appreciating the wines from the previous years.
As usual, if you have more questions, do not hesitate!
P.S. The photo below is a Port from Noval 1879