From the first steps in the world of wine, we learn that certain wines are drunk young, while others are to be enjoyed after a few years of cellaring. But how do you know when is the best time to open a good bottle? Here are some tips for determining a wine's peak .
The three ages of wine
Wine is a living product that constantly evolves, from bottling to tasting . Its characteristics change over time, and while most wines improve with age, after a certain time, they can also deteriorate. We then generally distinguish 3 ages of wine :
- Childhood : when very young, the wine is generally fiery, and presents very intense fruit aromas. We then focus on deliciousness rather than complexity;
- Youth : after a few years of aging, the wine closes. Its aromas are then less pronounced, more discreet;
- Maturity : upon reaching its fullness, the wine reaches its peak.
During these 3 phases, the wine will offer different qualities, and it is then a matter of finding the ideal phase for a tasting of exceptional wines.
Beyond that, the wine gradually begins a phase of decline , without it being bad. These features will simply be less subtle and refined.
The peak of different wines
Each wine does not reach its peak at the same time, and does not present the same qualities. All white wines, red wines and rosé wines do not evolve at the same speed, and it all depends on the winemaking technique, the region of production, or even the vintage. The characteristics of a wine can then give you information on its aging potential .
- Acidity : acidity is a powerful antioxidant, which offers white wines excellent aging potential. Acidic white wines are generally bright and clear;
- Sugar content : sugar is another antioxidant which ensures a good evolution of the wine. Thus, sweet wines and sweet wines are particularly suitable for aging;
- Tannins : the richer a wine is in tannins, the more suitable it is for aging. This is why there are more red wines for aging than white wines for aging.
How do you know if a wine has reached its peak?
When we buy a wine, we always hope to drink it at its peak, when it will deliver all the quintessence of its flavors. But how do you know if a wine is mature ?
When tasting wine
Nothing beats tasting to know if a wine has reached its peak. The ideal is to buy a case of 6 or 12 bottles, and open the first one, to find out if the following ones are suitable for drinking, or if they should be left to evolve for a while.
For a white wine, we then evaluate its acidity level , while for a red wine, we mainly analyze the tannin mass . The tannins are then still present, but much more moderate, and no longer astringent at all.
Depending on the wine aging technique
If you don't have the desire or the means to buy a whole case of wine bottles to do regular taste tests, you can also rely on wine aging techniques to assess their peak.
For example, barrel aging often requires a lengthy aging process. We then assume that wines aged in barrels are not young wines, but rather wines to be drunk after a few years of storage.
Depending on the fat and tannins of the wine
Furthermore, you can also refer to the fat content of white wine , and the tannins of red wine , to estimate the ideal consumption period. Indeed, to be able to age perfectly, they need these components.
Generally, wines rich in tannins and fat are made for aging, because they have enough substance and antioxidants to evolve. We then naturally think of Sauvignon or Malbec, which are excellent with age, but can be difficult to drink when young, because the tannins are then still very harsh.
The pinnacle of sparkling wines?
Sparkling wine is a type of wine that can age perfectly and gain quality over the years. The most difficult part of preserving sparkling wines lies in the presence of bubbles, which can deteriorate or even disappear over time. Generally speaking, the bubble weakens over time , and certain old champagnes can be enjoyed with no or almost no bubbles, while remaining exceptional wines.
It is difficult to know precisely the peak of a wine without having tasted it . However, certain clues can help you. Do not hesitate to call on the knowledge of the winemaker, or the expertise of an oenologist.