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Aging Wine

by Staff Writer - R. Meoki | December 15, 2010

Wine is an evolving and changing substance that can sometimes require extra time to develop. In general, light red wines, rose’s, and white wines are ready for drinking almost as soon as they are bottled, although some can develop additional qualities with a year or more of waiting time. Red wines usually require a longer aging time to reach maturity. A well made Cabernet Sauvignon may not reach its optimum point for a decade, while a Zinfandel may reach the same point after five or six years of aging. Aging wine is usually achieved in stainless steel or oak barrels. This process can take several months to several years. Fine red wines need to age for many years to reach their full potential. Oak barrels allow the wines to soften and the wines absorb some of the wood’s flavors and tannins. There are no exact hard and fast rules about when the best time to drink a specific wine might be. The majority of red wine drinkers prefer red wines when the tannins have mellowed for a while, usually after five to seven years of the aging wine’s release.

How to age the wine

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Wines will mature fairly quickly in a typical household where the temperatures range between 68-72°F, and if there are frequent changes in sunlight and humidity. If you have these typical conditions then you should not keep the wine bottles more than five or six months. If the aging wine is stored in a location that is warm to hot, most wines will begin to deteriorate very quickly. Finer wines that require aging need to be kept in a dark location, with little vibration and in an area that is constantly cool (50-60°F). For most people, this is a cellar or an artificial cellar. Since not everyone has a wine cellar, you will need to find a place that is as close to these ideal conditions as possible. The most important thing is a constant cool temperature since wines do not react well to extreme variations. Dampness is also important, but it should be fine as long as your storage area is not overly dry. You want to keep all of the bottles lying on their side, so that the wine stays in contact with the cork. By keeping the cork moist and expanded, it will help to hold a tight seal. If the cork dries out, then air can get in and destroy the wine. It is not recommended that you store your wine bottles in your refrigerator for an extended length of time. The refrigerator may have a constantly cool temperature but there is little humidity which causes the cork to shrink and this will cause the wine to spoil.

Deciding when a wine will attain its peak point

Individual tastes vary with each wine taster. Some wine tasters prefer their red wine with a more intense flavor that is robust and tannic. Others may prefer to wait for their red wines to achieve the velvety smooth quality that comes from maturity. It is up to the individual taster to decide their preference. Even when a wine is not tasted at its peak point, it may still be very good, perhaps even better than another wine that has already reached its peak. You should not hesitate to try wines before or after they are mature. Sophistication in the taste experience comes from evaluating wines at all stages of their development. A good way to taste wine at all stages of development is to purchase a case, or half case, and taste a bottle when the wine is relatively young, then try another bottle in a year, then another bottle a year after that and continue on. When the wine tastes the best to you through this progression, then that is your favorite time period. There is no substitute for your own wine tasting experience.

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