Journal | November 26, 2018
Better With Age
How and why a given wine ages is one of the most frequent questions asked by both novices and professionals. Most winegrowers can readily answer the “how” part, but the “why” part is usually vague and elusive. Best that it remains that way. Science can often ruin a good story.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to taste many of Linden’s older vintages from our well-curated library. A winegrower’s library consists of bottles rather than books. Linden’s goes back to 1987, our first vintage. This is how we can evaluate our progress and understand the ramifications of the weather and the decisions made in a given year. One can only imagine the anticipation (and perhaps a bit of trepidation) when a cork is pulled. Will we taste an example of our early stage youthful indiscretions, or magic in the bottle?
In my mind, there are three overlapping stages of bottle aging with wines:
1. Primary fruit and lively. These wines have the energy and focus of a toddler who has just learned to walk. They are fun and expressive, but one-dimensional. Once they have shaken their bottle shock, wines are at this stage for a year or two.
2. Complexity and integration. This is the plateau, when a wine still has vibrant fruit along with emerging earthy, mineral, and herbal aspects. All its components are in harmony. The timeline for this stage varies considerably depending on the style. For Roses and Sauvignon Blancs it could be just a few years, but for structured reds it could be a decade or more.
3. Tertiary and fragile. These wines can be intellectually interesting due to their unique aromas and flavor profiles. They can conger up buried organoleptic memories in ways one would least expect. A wine can be considered “over-the-hill,” but still give great satisfaction and intrigue.