The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 16, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

A wine experts answers common questions

Does wine age well? How long does it last? Does it get better with age?
Those are the questions most asked at wine tastings. It may seem that they are all the same questions when, in fact, each needs a different answer.

Wine is a difficult subject, as styles of wine vary constantly, vintages are different, and wines change as owners and wine makers change at wineries. Of course this is intimidating; it is even for the most seasoned pro. Don't let it get to you, try a bottle to see if you like it, and then try another bottle. That's the beauty of it. It is different most of the time, just like the meal you prepare is not always the same. A slight difference in ingredients and it tastes different. Cherish the change! It would be boring without it.

DOES WINE AGE WELL?
That entirely depends on the wine. And most don't, to be honest. Most of today's wines are made to be consumed within a year or two, maybe three. What we call the 'fruit,' (which in 'wine speak' means the sweeter flavors of fruit such as berries, cherries, and other fruits) that balance the wine against its acidity, will develop in the first few months of the wine and then disappear for the most part after a year or two in the bottle.

Only about ten percent of all wines are made to last. That is because of heavy extraction in the wine making process. The heavy tannins and other components that need to break down over years to develop the flavors that make really great wine, are generally found only in quite expensive wines, not your everyday varietals. Most are made to purchase today and drink today or tomorrow, as most consumers do.

HOW LONG WILL WINE LAST?
This is the question that usually implies the shelf life 'after opening' the bottle. Too many people seem think wine is like other alcoholic beverages that you can open and drink over weeks until it's empty. No wonder so many people do not wine; they probably have had it after it's stale and awful. The truth is most will be after only a day or maybe two for some wines.

Nobody would think of drinking a beer that been opened the day before, wine is pretty similar to this. It's only fermented grape juice and goes bad when exposed to air. If the bottle is not finished after a day, throw it out or maybe use it for cooking.

DOES WINE GET BETTER WITH AGE?
Well as said above, only if the wine was specifically made to age. And this includes the whole process of wine making, from selecting the grapes in the vineyard to handling them at the winery.

Since so many people like wine that tastes the same all the time, many wines are produced literally with all kinds of tricks to taste predictably the same much like soft drinks taste the same. Those wines that get better with age will develop, at some time peak, and then decline. One could say these wines are the most alive, with all the unpredictability life entails.