Many people will talk about how important it is for certain wines to be aged properly before they are served, and there is some credence to that notion assuming you understand which ones are best served after ageing and which start to lose their quality over time. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a common misconception whereby people feel as though a wine can only be of good quality if it has been aged for a long time, regardless of the type of wine it is or the various techniques that producers have used to create it.
While many experienced connoisseurs are able to discern one from the other fairly quickly, those who are new to the world of Italian wine may find themselves feeling confused, which could result in them placing wines that are best consumed when they are young into storage, resulting in them losing a lot of what makes them so enjoyable in the first place.
We at Xtrawine feel as though a little bit more information is needed on the subject of old wines and young wines, so in an effort to provide a little clarity to those who may feel confused with have come up with a handy guide that highlights some of the key differences and offers additional information to those who need it.
One of the biggest problems that people run into when comparing aged with young wines is serving them correctly. A good rule of thumb, though by no means definitive, is that white wines are often best served young, whereas red wines are often best served aged. Again, this all depends on the type of wine, the vintner and a number of other factors, but it is a good start for those who are not sure. Before serving, it may be best to do your research on the particular type of wine you will be drinking, so you can establish whether it is young or aged.
Once you have that out of the way, you need to understand how to serve the wine so that you get the most out of it.
In the case of young wines, you will find that they usually demonstrate their full aromas and depth of flavour immediately after being opened. This means you should spend as little time as possible between opening the bottle and pouring it in order to enjoy it to its fullest potential. Exposure to air for prolonged periods of time will often lead to young wines fizzling out and losing their flavours, sometimes becoming quite flat and sour as a result. This can most commonly be seen with sparkling white wines, which lose the bubbles that make them so popular in the first place.
By contrast, aged wines need to aerate a little bit, as the chemical reaction between the wine and the oxygen surrounding it needs to be taken into account. This reaction can often result in the exposing of hidden layers of flavour that you may not have experienced if you tried to drink the wine right after pouring it. In these cases, it is best to decant the wine for about ten of fifteen minutes so that it can breathe properly. Such wines will also be slower when it comes to losing their flavour after opening, meaning you may be able to store them for a little longer and re-serve, especially if you have a vacuum pump.
The Differences Between The Two
So now you know how to serve each type of wine, you need to be able to identify which is which to get the most out of them.
The simplest way is to find out at what point in the process the wine was bottle. Young and aged don’t just refer to how long you can store the wine before it starts to lose its flavour and structure. It also refers to how long the producer aged the wine, in barrels or through other techniques, before they bottled it up and shipped it out to the public.
It shouldn’t be too hard to find out this information, especially if you look at the year attached to the vintage. Most producers will also be more than happy to talk about their winemaking processes on their company websites. The simple rule of thumb is that if the wine was bottled young, it should also be consumed young. The opposite is obviously true for wines that were aged in production.
How To Tell If A Wine Has Been Aged Too Much
Of course, even knowing that some ones are better aged and some are better young, it can be easy to make mistakes and leave an aged wine in storage for too long, or to try to age a young wine a little more, only to have it go past maturation and start to become decrepit.
For this we will take the lifecycle of white wines first. Young white wines will generally have a light yellow colouring that is more intense than you may be used to seeing from a white wine. This is usually when the wine will be at peak acidity, so you may get quite a sharp flavour when drinking it. However, there are people who prefer white wines in this fashion. You will know that your white wine has been aged enough when the colour starts to develop a golden tint, leading to the yellow fading a little. This is a sign that the wine is mature and at perfect drinking age. However, if the wine is amber, you have over-aged it and may not enjoy it.
There are similar colour changes for red wine. Young variants will often contain hints of purple, which should be taken as a sign that they need to be placed into storage for a while. Over time, this purple will clear away to show a ruby red colouring, which is when the wine has reached maturation. Not all wines are sold at maturation, so you need to pay attention. Finally, if the wine starts to develop brownish shades, becoming red brick or even brown in colouring, it has been over-aged and has lost its structure.