Older isn’t Always Better

Wine improves with age, right? Some do, most don’t. Unfortunately, only certain high quality wines age as well as Jennifer Aniston, the rest end up more or less like Lindsay Lohan.

“Wine improves with age” is something we’ve been hearing since we were old enough to know what wine is. And especially here in India, where the wine culture is still catching up, it’s a common practice to simply store every bottle we get on a shelf, in the hopes that it will one day turn into something sublime and beautiful, like in the movies.

Unfortunately, and predictably, Hollywood lied to us. Not every wine has the potential to be aged for long periods of time. Some deserve to be drunk when young and fresh (this is more applicable to whites, than reds) before their youthful personality becomes jaded, and cynical. Others, most often the heavy, aggressive reds, can’t be fully appreciated until they’ve had the time to mellow down and find balance among themselves.

Here are some depressing statistics that need addressing.

99% of wines are meant to be consumed within five years of production. Okay… that doesn’t sound too bad. The bottle that Sharma ji gave us is still four years old.

Except…

90% are meant to be consumed within a year. So it’s quite possible that you’ve been safeguarding a bottle of Sharma ji’s vinegar for three years. Ouch.

So why is it that some wines age and others don’t? This is actually intentionally done by the winemaker. Every year, the grapes are harvested, and pressed up to three times to extract the grape juice. However, not all of it is made into wine and sold at once. Majority of the extracted juice is made into wine and distributed, so the vineyard can make some money. This makes up the bulk of the wines commonly available in the market.

However, the highest quality of extracted juice (generally the least in quantity) is reserved for making their highest quality wines, which are the ones with the potential to age. These are typically released only a few years after harvesting, after they’ve been conditioned and treated to last the test of time. These are the collector’s edition bottles that end up in cellars without being opened for years on end. And they generally cost a lot of money.

So now you know. If you have a bottle lying around somewhere, it’s probably best to finish it as soon as possible. In order to enjoy it completely, you’ll also need to know how to store it, since wines react unfavourably to too much heat and sunlight. I’ll cover everything you need to know on how wines age, along with how best to store them, in the coming weeks.

Till then, happy drinking. 🙂

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