Some wines are like George Clooney...
They get better with age! Although, we can all agree that bowl cut is on fleek...
So which wines do I age? It's all about structure aka wines that have strong fundamental foundation. So what are the components of structure?
When we're talking fruit, we're asking ourselves, how intense are the wine's fruity aromas and flavors? Some you can smell from across the room, others you really need to dig your nose in there! The more pronounced the fruitiness the longer the wine can age. Over time, the wine will oxidize, and the fruity aromas/flavors will morph, mellow out and not be so conspicuous. Kind of like our friend George's haircut.
What about sugar? Well hopefully you know that sugar acts as a preservative. That's the whole point of jams, chutneys, PRESERVES, etc. Now, just because the wine has sugar in it, does not mean that it's offensively sweet, so long as it is balanced with the appropriate amount of acid. Think of the perfect margarita... not too sweet, not too tart.
What role does acid play in aging? As a wine ages it slowly loses its acids and flattens out. So if you don't have enough acidity to begin with, you are doomed when it comes to aging a bottle in your cellar. Don't have a cellar? Store your bottles horizontally in a cool, dark space with minimal temperature fluctuations.
Although great for fun and dancing, high alcohol levels are not good for aging. Generally speaking, I recommend aging (non-fortified) wines that have ABV levels of 13.5% or lower. Of course there are exceptions! So why do lower alcohol levels age better? Alcohol in non-fortified wines is volatile which means that it aids in turning the wine into vinegar.
And lastly, tannins. High tannin levels help wine age like Clooney. Why? The tannins slowly break down and “smooth out” over time as they break down. So a wine with high tannins (think: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Nebbiolo) may be harsh and austere in its youth, but blossom into smooth, velvety hedonism with age. White wines don't have tannins, but that does not mean they cannot age. In fact some of the longest aging wines are high-end Rieslings and Champagnes! They have good sugar levels, good acidity levels, and low alcohol.
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