- Get better – changing or developing into something more interesting;
Tannins make your mouth feel dry on the tongue, roof of the mouth, and along the gum line. Tannins can sometimes be overwhelming in youthful wines which are capable of long storage. I have heard it described this way . . . If the tannins make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter, then that bottle needs time to develop. Tannins, of course, play a larger role in red wines.
Flavor profile offers valuable clues. If more mature tertiary flavors dominate or if there is a balance of primary and tertiary flavors, that bottle is near its peak and has nowhere to go but downhill. Even so, remember that high acidity can help it remain fresh, so there is not always a need to panic.
When evaluating the flavor profile, fruit is important to consider. If the varietal or blend should be fruit dominant, yet you cannot smell or taste fruit, we say it is “tight”. Swirl it in your glass or consider decanting. If the wine does not “open up” revealing its fruit, but you detect a lot of tannins and acid, this wine likely needs to develop.
If fruit, tannins, and acid blast your palate in almost separate waves, we say the wine is not well integrated. If the individual aspects are strong, and the flavor profile has not shifted too far to tertiary flavors, this wine will likely improve over time and become more harmonious.
Simple, fruity wines with very little tannin and lighter acid should be thought of as a youthful fling. You know they won’t last, so go ahead and enjoy them now. Next year there will be another.
When considering a wine for aging you might ask yourself, “Do I like this wine and why?” If you like it because it is fresh and fruity then ask “Does it have enough acid to keep it fresh and fruity?” These wines will keep a few years but won’t improve. If you don’t like it because it does not have enough fruit then ask, “Is the fruit hiding behind the tannins?” If there is also lots of acid then maybe keep a bottle to try later and see if the fruit comes to the forefront.
One of our wine friends makes this suggestion . . . If you think a wine will improve over time, buy a case. Open one bottle a year to see how the wine develops. If you have enough scratch, this could be a fun experiment. I guess when you determine the wine is at its prime, you can open the rest of the bottles and have a party!
Don’t despair. While a little more risky, we can find clues about how a wine will develop without opening that one precious bottle. We will share those clues next week, along with some tried and true ways to properly store your wine.