The Evolution of a Wine - Part 1

29 June 2021

Let's start with a wonderful, fundamental premise: wine is alive!

Each bottle contains a living and vital element, in continuous evolution, which passes through the age of youth, reaches maturity and finally starts, slowly, on the downward slope of old age.

If time represents a fundamental variable in the course of the wine production process - from the vineyard to the refinement - we can also say that the same also applies to what happens after bottling, depending on how much time we allow to pass before uncorking our bottle.

During its life in the bottle each wine goes through three phases:

- Youth, during which its organoleptic characteristics are refined

- Maturity, or the apex of evolution, the moment in which the wine, in all its components, reaches its maximum balance and expressiveness

- Senility, understood as that long period following maturity, during which the fineness of the wine's characteristics progressively degenerates

This process is easily represented as a curve (not for nothing do we speak of an evolution curve) in which we will have a first "uphill" part, an apex and finally a "descent": this very general synopsis will obviously have to be modified from time to time for each individual wine depending on its specific characteristics.

While maintaining its logic, as the wine changes, it is possible to appreciate significant variations in the progress of the process, particularly linked to the slope of the first and third stretch.

In other words, each wine, depending on the type, will reach its peak of maturity more or less quickly and the same would apply to its decline.

But let's give a couple of examples.

Sparkling or effervescent wines made with the Charmat method are generally made as a so-called ready-to-drink: with this expression, we mean that they will already be perfect for consumption - therefore mature - shortly after bottling. Their evolution curve will therefore be characterised by a very steep first stretch but also, conversely, by an (almost) equally rapid decline. The techniques used for the production of this type of product are in fact aimed at enhancing the typical characteristics of young wines (freshness of aromas, acidity, flavour), upon the decay of which the wine loses a good part of its personality.

While in  the context of sparkling wines, let's see instead how the situation changes for those produced with the Classic Method: the length of time the wine rests on the yeasts in the bottle guarantees great potential for the evolution of the aromas, thus expanding the width of the curve.

In the same way, moving on to the reds, the wines subjected to ageing in the wood will generally need more time to reach the full balance of all its aromas, while a wine-making technique based more on the exaltation of the blend, without adding tertiary notes, will guarantee - in principle - faster processes of maturation.

But what is the benefit of expressing a judgment on the state of evolution of a wine?

In the next article we will expand on this topic adding some important elements to our discussion and, we hope, providing our readers with some new food for thought.

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