The time of maturity When is a wine ready to drink ?
It would be nice if there were a measuring device that could be used to determine from the outside when the wine has reached optimum maturity - a maturity test, in other words.
There are certainly a few clues, but the decisive time of drinking maturity varies for every wine lover. You are probably wondering why this is so.
When a wine is bottled, it is far from being "finished". Wine matures in the bottle. However, this is where the different styles of wine differ. Some wines are made for direct enjoyment - others improve through storage.
For wine drinkers it is very difficult to find out when the optimal drinking pleasure is.
With the following article I would like to give you a few clues to get as close as possible to the individual optimal drinking pleasure.
This well-known saying can be interpreted in different ways, because some wines should be drunk young, others should be left for a while.
However, it is a myth that generally, wines should be left to age as long as possible.
In general, you can follow the following scheme:
Basic wines, that is, good everyday wines, are vinified so that they are easy to drink as soon as they are bottled. They are intended for uncomplicated fresh drinking pleasure.
White wines should be drunk 1-2 years after harvest.
Red wines can be given one year longer. Here we should make the distinction as to which grape variety is in the bottle. Wines with higher tannin content such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Nebiolo can still appear edgy and hard after a year. Pinot Noir/Spätburgunder, Gamay (Beaujolais), Merlot or Primitivo do not have as many tannins and are therefore good to drink earlier.
After all, 80% of all wines are made to be drunk without long aging.
There are no best-before dates on the bottles, because these wines are still drinkable after the times mentioned above, but they have usually reached their peak by then. The freshness, fruit and liveliness decreases and the wine becomes less flavorful.
White wines s in the medium price segment are usually drinkable for a year longer. The red wines, you should leave for the first year after the harvest and enjoy only them after that point. Here too, the optimal drinking time is about 4 years after the harvest.
The situation is quite different for wines in the higher category. Cru wines from France or Große Gewächse, as these wines are called by German VDP vintners.
White wines should be allowed to age for three years before drinking, but then can be drunk for another 10-15 years. Red wines are usually left for at least 5 years, after which they can be enjoyed for many years.
With these wines it often happens that they taste good when freshly bottled, but afterwards have a period where they are totally closed. Often they have no taste at all, nor do they exude aroma and sometimes they even seem defective.
The question is, what happens to the wines as they age?
When the wine has gone through its freshness phase, it enters "puberty".
A transformation takes place, whereby the individual ingredients, i.e. fruit, acid and tannins, react with each other. In this process, aroma compounds are dissolved, and new compounds are formed. In this phase, the wine is not a pleasure, and it is best to leave it alone in the cellar.
But if these wines are properly stored and given the time necessary, they can develop into something great.
I will never forget how I once bought a case of wine from Uruguay. The first bottle was o.k., after that it got worse and worse and I didn't know what to do with the wine anymore, because the wine didn't taste good at all. One bottle survived forgotten in a corner of the wine cellar. Eight years later found, opened and it was a revelation - I was very disappointed not to have had more bottles.
During the aging process, wine slowly loses its primary aromas, which are produced by the grapes. These are often fruit aromas such as citrus, apple or peach in white wines and berries or cherries in red wines.
The longer a wine matures, the more tertiary aromas develop, i.e. aromas that are created by aging in the barrel and/or in the bottle, such as wood aromas. This is still very pronounced in the wine at the beginning. With time, the individual aromas combine in the bottle to create a harmonious and complex wine. There are often flavors of spices (vanilla, clove), but also aromas of honey or dried fruit, chocolate and coffee - to name a few. The tannin becomes mellow, the texture soft, smooth and full-bodied. Overall, the wine gains complexity and has a long finish.
This maturation process can take several years and requires a little patience.
As a wine novice, you also have to get used to such aromas and engage with them. With Riesling, for example, the so-called petrol note develops. For some a pleasure and a reason to let the wine age for a long time, for others completely out of the question, which is why these people will always prefer the fresh, young Riesling.
The colorants (= anthocyanins) also change in the case of red wine, a clear transformation from youthful crimson to mature brick red can be seen. The colorants settle as a crust at the bottom of the bottle, which can be removed by decanting before enjoying.
White wines, on the other hand, acquire a golden hue over time, and some varieties turn deep yellow or even orange.
If the wine becomes overripe, it appears watery, emaciated and often very oxidized. Usually the color is then also amber-yellow or brownish with red wines. Acidity and bitter substances remain.
How quickly a wine ages depends not only on its potential through production, but also through storage. The darker, cooler and quieter a wine is stored, the longer the aging process will take, but as always with something like this: good things come to those who wait. Exposing a wine to heat or driving around in the trunk of a car will only age a wine inharmoniously. It will not attain the true quality of maturity.
By the way, the longest storable wines are sweet white wines such as Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein or Sauternes. Some of these wines can be stored for over 50 years and are therefore always my first suggestion when it comes to buying a wine for a child's christening, which will then taste good 18 years later.
Do you like aged wines or do you prefer the young, fresh wines?
Please let me know your experiences.