It happens that you don't know how much "residual life" a wine has, that you open it a little too early or that you wait too long. And it's a shame, especially in the second case. Here is an easy guide to understand when to uncork a bottle of wine and understand its evolution over time.
A fact is that wine changes over the years , in its aromas and flavour.
So let's start from one point: the evolution potential - i.e. the ability of a wine to resist but also to improve over time, i.e. by aging - depends on two factors:
1. type of wine (vine variety and winemaking technique);
2. how it was done .
The life of each bottle is similar to that of any living being, which goes from being young and immature to maturity and old age . All wines travel this curve , each at different times. This is why some bottles last for decades, others must be consumed within the year.
Over time, wine tends to move from a prevalence of fruity and fresh aromas, typical of young wines, to more complex, warm and spicy aromas (evolved, in jargon).
The wine then grows over time until the perfect moment to consume it. This does not mean that there is a wrong time to taste it but that, given the choice, it is best to uncork it during the period in which it is at its best.
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Steps to know, to understand how long the wine lasts and not uncork the bottle at the wrong time
How to understand when to uncork?
1. The first reference is given by the year of the harvest (which when present indicates that at least 85% of the grapes were harvested that year). You will then be able to understand when it was created. The vintage, for those who want to delve deeper, also allows us to trace the specific characteristics of that vintage.
3. Pay attention to the type of grape , because some vines are very resistant to the challenge of time. Nebbiolo, Cannonau, Sangiovese, Aglianico, for example, have great evolutionary capabilities.
4. By reading the denomination (DOCG, DOC or IGT) you can understand the technique with which the wine was made, and therefore whether there was refinement in the cellar and in what material.
Therefore: wines that are created to be simple and easy to drink (little aging, not in wood, Ancestral or Charmat Methods...), should be opened when young because this way they preserve their characteristics of fragrance and freshness intact. So wines white , rosés and even reds, if simple and not very structured, are ready to be uncorked just a few months after bottling (when they go on the market) and have a shelf life of from a year to a few more .
THE wines structured (by characteristics of the grape variety and for technique ) have long life , require patience to evolve and give the best of oneself, achieve balance and perfect one's own wider and more complete bouquet . It's about structured and complex red wines , but also long-lived whites , which have undergone long aging in wood: these become truly mature After many years since they entered the market, showing a long shelf life, even decades.
- Read also: how to understand if it tastes like cork
I opened the bottle: how do I understand what evolutionary stage it is in?
1. Observe the color some wine
Color, shades and the wine liveliness are important indicators, especially for whites and reds. Normally the wine changes from bright colors and cold tones (greenish shades for the whites, purple for the reds), gradually arriving at warmer colours.
A wine of color light yellow with cold shades It is probably very young , then the color tends to turn towards golden.
A wine amber yellow , even tending towards brown , it may be an indication of a wine that is now " past " (obviously not if it is Vin Santo or Passito ).
A wine purple red (i.e. almost purple) indicates that the wine is young and has an excellent predisposition to aging.
A red with orange shades it is an indication of a wine aged , the taste will tell if it is "too much".
2. Pay attention to the taste
The taste gives the litmus test. With evolution the wine passes from one predominance of what are called " hardness " (acidity and still unripe tannin) up to the dominance of " softness ", which leads to a smoother tannin and a more rounded taste. In between is the best quality phase.
By tasting the wine, with a bit of experience behind you, you can understand what stage you are in, precisely by evaluating the balance (or disequilibrium) between hardness and softness. We must especially pay attention to acidity and at characteristics of tannins.
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When to uncork the wine: some very long-lived wines
Aleatico di Puglia : has a certain aging capacity, being able to reach 10 years from when it is bottled and even exceed it.
Aglianico del Vulture : has great aging capacity, being able to exceed 10 years from when it is bottled.
Amarone : wine that has the ability to grow, depending on the vintage, between 10 and 20 years after bottling.
Barolo : the characteristics of Nebbiolo change according to the vintages. For this reason, since Barolo has been bottled it can grow over time and reach its peak in 7-8, 10, 20 years or more.
Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà : in good years it can exceed 10 years.
Brunello di Montalcino : the evolution depends a lot on the vintage. In any case, from when it is bottled, Brunello can grow over time for a minimum of 10 years up to 30, but it can be stored even longer.
Picolit : can age 10 years and more.
Riesling : a wine which in the German and Alsatian versions has a very long life ahead of it, which can reach 50 years.
Valtellina Superiore : it generally develops between 5 and 10 years.
Vernaccia di Oristano : can grow between 8 and 15 years.
Vin Santo Trentino is also very long-lived, capable of growing for 20 years or more in the cellar.
A fascinating experiment is to buy several bottles of the same wine from the same vintage and uncork one bottle a year, to experience its evolution and enjoy the results of different aging.
And remember: many years behind a bottle are not, in themselves, a guarantee of quality: each wine has its own evolutionary curve, which must be understood.
To understand more there is only one way: taste, taste, taste with awareness. Try our selections of niche wines, selected from wineries around the world by great sommeliers.