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How Do Wine Flavours Alter With Age?

It’s important to understand that flavours and textures praised in a wine's youth will dramatically alter with age, and will sometimes even disappear entirely. The only question to consider is: do you like the flavours they turn into?

 

During the ageing process:

  • Acid and tannins are softened and gain a rounder character
  • Colours evolve
  • Fruit flavours diminish and, if the wine has the chemical composition to support ageing, these are replaced by more complex, aged characters.

 

More precisely, wine can be defined by three different types of flavours and aromas throughout its life cycle:

  • Primary flavours, which are determined by the soil and the varietal: fruit, mineral, floral, herbaceous.
  • Secondary flavours, which are the result of the winemaking (fermentation, maturation and other processes): spices, oak, honey, toast
  • Tertiary flavours, which appear with ageing: leather, earthiness, cedar etc.

It’s important to understand that flavours and textures praised in a wine's youth will dramatically alter with age, and will sometimes even disappear entirely. The only question to consider is: do you like the flavours they turn into?

 

White wines tend to:

  • become darker in colour and lose acid
  • take on more complex characters of toast, honey, and dried fruits
  • The wine must have the potential to age or there is nothing pleasant available to replace the waning fruit flavours and lower acidity

 

Red wines tend to:

  • lose vibrancy of colour and go from purplish red to brick red
  • tannins will soften
  • earthy, cedar, underwood and leather flavours develop over time
  • Same as for whites, the wine must have the potential to age or there is nothing pleasant available to replace the waning fruit flavors

 

Examples 

WINE

WHEN YOUNG

WITH AGE

Chardonnay

peaches, vanilla (when oaked), full and soft fruit flavor

honey, buttered toast, hazelnut

Unwooded Semillon

very dry, high acidity and low in flavour, green apples, lemon

soft acid, burnt buttered toast, straw and honey

Sauvignon Blanc

high acid, grapefruit, minerals and freshly cut grass

generally: lacklustre fruit and acidity

Shiraz

dry, high tannin, blackberry and raspberry fruit, crushed pepper 

soft tannin, wet leather,  cedar, tobacco, wet earth

Cabernet Sauvignon

dry, high tannin, blackcurrant, mint, chocolate, mulberry

soft tannin, cedar, tobacco, earth

Riesling

crisp acid, lemon, lime, minerals (in cooler climate), fruit salad and flowers (in warmer climate)               

soft acid, honeyed, with kerosene and toast flavours

Pinot Noir

cherries, strawberries, good acidity

earth-like flavours, leather, mushroom