You learn a lot of things over the years at wine tastings. For one thing, wine tastings attract the truly passionate devotees like us. They also attract the kind of people who would like you to believe that they’re truly passionate devotees, even if they wouldn’t know wine from grape juice that had been left out in the sun for too long.
I think that even people who aren’t really passionate about wine could benefit from learning a little more about it. Wine is a precious commodity worldwide, and it has had a huge impact on human history. It’s an important part of many different cultures. If you know anything at all about wine, you’re automatically going to appear more cultured than a lot of your friends anyway, so what do you have to lose?
Here’s a fun fact: 250,000 different varieties of wine come out every year. People who laugh at how wine tasters could possibly have that much to do should remember that it’s hard to get a lot of experience with wine in a normal lifetime. That’s actually one reason why you should try to limit yourself to the best. Life is too short to taste cheap wines.
For one thing, the five characteristics of wine are as follows: the fruit, sweetness, tannins, acidity, and body. I’d say that each aspect of the wine is pleasant in its own right in some ways. The sweetness is the characteristic that a lot of people talk about, and why wouldn’t they?
People who have only ever experienced cheap wine are shortchanging themselves in the wine department. Cheap wine is low on sweetness, which is why it basically tastes like a cleaning solution.
Wines with no sugar can still taste sweet, as weird as it sounds. Wine that’s made from sweet grapes with aged oak is going to be sweet.
A typical glass of wine is five ounces or six ounces. That one little ounce can make a huge difference at wine tastings, let me tell you.
However, the big burning question that people have is whether or not cost really matters with wine. The answer is yes, but the location, the aging, and other factors will complicate the situation. There’s lots of great wine out there that isn’t going to set you back like the purchase of a new car.
I love the expression ‘ages like fine wine.’ It’s an expression that becomes even more popular among older people, and it’s the sort of thing that we like to tell ourselves when we’re feeling down about our years. We all want to be the fine wines that age well, and are in fact even better after several decades than they were when they were first new. I would say that people do often age like wine. However, does wine always age like wine?
The idea that older wine is always better than newer wine is so pervasive that it’s the only thing that most people ‘know’ about wine, and the expression is more popular than the beverage that supposedly inspired it. I’m here to tell you that a good ninety percent of the wine that is created should have been consumed in the same year that it was introduced. Not all wines get better with age. There are four factors that go into wine aging: the residual sugar, the acidity, the tannin structure, and the alcohol content.
One of the curiosities of this phenomenon is not only the fact that fine wine gets better with age, but fine wine often doesn’t even taste very good when it is new. As a rule, if you’re dealing with a wine that tastes delicious when it is twelve years old, it isn’t going to taste very good in the first few years after its initial release. Some people actually get the wrong idea about fine wine for that reason. They try it when it is too new to be good, and they come to the conclusion that the cheap stuff is better. The cheap stuff is just more widely available in every way.
For a wine to age well, it’s going to need to have a high acid content. You know how soft drinks tend to go flat after they’re left out for too long? Wines aren’t that much different in that regard. They get flat after their acid content weakens. A wine that didn’t have that much acid to begin with is going to be as flat as Kansas after only a few years have gone by. A wine that is as acidic as can be is going to have plenty of acid to burn with time.
Bear in mind that this is another reason why fine wines aren’t going to be as tasty when they are first introduced. Wines with a high acid content are going to have a much sharper flavor for that reason, and not everyone is going to like that taste very much. After a decade goes by and the acid content starts to weaken a little, the acid level is going to be just right when it comes to the taste of the wine. You end up with a wine that is vastly better than a new wine with a comparable acid content.
Here’s a question I like to ask a lot of wine enthusiasts to see just how serious they are: do sweet wines age better than dry wines? I almost guarantee that you that a lot of people are going to say ‘dry wines.’ Lots of people like to age their dry wines, and it’s almost considered a status symbol if you can manage to do it. However, one of the reasons for this in the first place lies in the fact that it is a lot harder to age dry wines than it is to age the sweet wines.
The delicious wines that you see last for decades are often sweet wines like port or fortified wine. You’ll see sweet wines like Sauternes, sherry, and riesling aging well right alongside these sweet wines. Really, this is one of the reasons why the oldest wines are also the tastiest in many cases. The tastier ones are just the ones that last longer!
Wine enthusiasts will tend to debate a lot about white wine versus red wine. Really, it’s one of the questions that you ask your fellow wine geeks. I don’t know if it’s the ‘Kirk versus Picard’ of wine, but it’s up there. Anyway, I can tell you that red wine does tend to age better than white wine as well. Even the cheapest red wine will still be good for months after the cheapest white wine has turned into flat sludge. It’s even more pronounced when it comes to the finer and more expensive wine.
So yes: there’s a reason why people will be drinking some wines for decades, and some of them will barely make it to the end of the year without tasting flat and defeated. However, at its core, I don’t really think that wine does age well in an absolute sense. Wines that age well are just resistant to wear and tear because they have a lot to burn, so to speak.
Also, while some wines get better with age, they don’t absolutely get better with age. A wine that is better at age twelve than it was at age one isn’t going to be better at age fifty necessarily. Wine also definitely doesn’t last forever, and if it really got better with age, than it would. The number of wines that make it to the end of a century are rare. Wine is sadly as mortal as the rest of us, at least for now. Maybe we will both ‘age like wine’ in the future.
One of the aspects of wine tasters that has gotten some criticism over the years is the fact that we emphasize that there really is a special way to taste wine. People like to joke about how we’re a group of people who needed remedial tasting and sipping.
These are people who obviously view wine in a way that is very different from us, and they probably view life in a similar fashion. They view wine in an obviously functional fashion, and they don’t think of the consumption of wine as being a profound sensory experience. Wine tasting isn’t about getting wine down your throat as quickly as possible and then moving onto something else in order to maximize for some type of efficiency. Wine tasting is about really savoring and appreciating the beverage because it really can offer the sort of sensory experience that you just won’t get with the majority of other beverages.
You can’t get to a point where you can really taste wine without really knowing what you’re tasting and why. Usually, the first thing that you’ll notice is the sweetness of the wine, or lack thereof as the case may be. You’ll get a tingle on your tongue immediately if you’re dealing with a very sweet wine. The middle of your tongue might feel slightly oily.
The acidity of the wine is one of the next things that you will be able to taste. You’ll probably think that it’s the alcohol content of the wine that you’re noticing, but the sharp, tart flavor is usually going to be the acidity of the wine. The acidity of wine will manifest itself as this sharp feeling on the front and sides of your tongue. Your mouth will feel wet and gravelly at the same time as a result of the strong acidity of the wine.
You’ll get a feeling of dryness in your mouth, which is almost always caused by the tannin content of the wine. It isn’t a pronounced feeling of dryness and it isn’t uncomfortable, but that is one of the consequences of the tannins in wine. Wine wouldn’t have the body or the durability that it does without the tannin content that it has, and I think the tannins add to the experience in a pleasant way.