Wine aging: types of aging and which wines age better
Answer: There are 2 types of aging. In the barrel (oxidative aging, with the presence of oxygen) and in the bottle (reducing, absence of oxygen). During aging, various reactions take place that change the organoleptic characteristics of the wine (aroma, taste, color). For example, the aromas of fresh fruits evolve into aromas of ripe fruist, the taste of refreshing body becomes more complex and finally, the color from green-yellow becomes golden straw in white wines while in reds it changes from ruby to more tile shades. The aging capacity of each wine depends on:
*) characteristics of wine: alcohol, acidity, tannins, body
*) the soil-climatic conditions of the area (ex day-night temperature difference, volcanic soil, etc.)
*) the harvest season (ideal maturation of the grapes)
*) the oenological methods applied by the winemaker (ex use of the method of cold maceration)
*) and storage conditions of the bottle.
In general we could say that sweet wines can age better than dry ones. Red wines more than whites. Those that have passed through the barrel more than the vinified in the tank.
How we store our wines?
*) The temperature: ALWAYS keep strictly defined temperature between 15οC - 20οC. No large fluctuations. Ex. if you see ¨tear¨, a drop on the edge of the cork, this is a sign of bad storage conditions.
*) Humidity: Desired 75-85%. In a very dry environment the cork dries while in a very wet mold grows on the exposed surface of the cork.
*) Brightness: Light is the enemy of wine. Storage for a long time in a bright room alters the color, aroma and taste (avoid fluorescent lamps).
*) Absence of unwanted odors: Do not leave the wine bottles in the same place with foods with strong odors, ex. cheeses, onions. Generally, corks do not allow the wine to leak from the bottle but allow some odors to enter.
*) Underground cellars or caves with well-ventilated areas are preferred. If you do not have these places, you can preserve your wines in wine preservers.
*) Avoid the use of detergents / disinfectants. They create problems for corked wines.
*) Do not store next to heat sources, ex. next to the boiler room or next to the ventilation / expansion of a refrigerator.
Temperatures and way of serving wines
Answer: Let us keep in mind that the organoleptic characteristics of wine (mainly aromas and taste) react differently at lower or higher serving temperatures. Generally a fresh, white wine (ex Santorini) the drier and more acidic it is, the cooler it is enjoyed. At lower temperatures it shows its fruity character better (10 - 12 οC). A full body white wine, with a strong taste, which has matured in a barrel (ex Nykteri), can be served less cool, so that the character of the barrel balances tastefully with the fruity and earthy characteristics of Assyrtiko (13 - 15 οC). For reds, the right temperature depends on how tannic they are. The more astringent they are, the warmer they should be served, but without exaggeration, in order to express their fruity character.
For how long can the wine be left open in our refrigerator?
Answer: It depends on the wine itself:
*) wine category (white, red, dry, sweet, sparkling, fresh wine, barrel ripening etc)
*) storage conditions of the bottle before opening it. If the bottle was already stored in conditions that accelerate the oxidation of the wine (ex at high temperature) then the life time in the refrigerator is reduced.
*) remaining quantity of wine in the bottle. If there is less wine left, and therefore more oxygen in the bottle, then the life time in the refrigerator is reduced.
In general, we could say that
*) The sparkling wines last 1-3 days as the bubbles disappear quickly. Prosecco wines are less durable than Champagne.
*) white wines last 2-5 days. The aromatic and light wines last fewer days open in the refrigerator while the richer ones with higher acidity last longer.
*) rosé wines last 1-3 days as they are mainly refreshing, aromatic and light wines.
*) the red ones last 3-5 days. Richer and more tannic wines last longer than fresher red wines.
Tip: Never place the bottle near the light of the refrigerator as it accelerates its oxidation or near cheeses as it will affect the aromatic profile of your wine. There are several types of wine accessories on the market, such as wine pumps, which remove oxygen from the bottle and extend the life of your wine in the refrigerator.
How we prepare our wine for our dinner
It is good to keep in mind the temperature that the wine will have from the beginning to the end of the meal. Suggestions:
*) white wines can be put in the fridge earlier and taken out shortly before we offer them, so that they won’t be too cold when served.
*) If we want to cool a white wine quickly, we can put it in a champagne full to 1/3 with ice cubes and water, for 15-30 minutes.
*) If we have stored a rich, complex white wine in a cellar (15 οC), then we can serve it immediately.
*) Reds can be stored in a cool room (~ 18 οC) and served immediately. If you do not have this possibility, simply place them in the refrigerator for a while until they reach the desired serving temperature. Some reds need the oxygen influence and therefore decanting is recommended. Beware of the presence of sediments in aged wines. They are just natural elements of wine (tannins, anthocyanins, etc.).
Tip: When serving more than one wine at a meal, start with lighter or lower alcohol wines. Dry wines are served before sweets. Younger wines are served before the aged ones. Also, we do not quench our thirst by drinking wine. We can have a glass of water that can accompany our meal. The wine is best enjoyed in small sips combined with small bites.
Types of a wine glass.
Answer: Prefer glasses with stems so that the bowl does not come in contact with your hand and the wine is heated (tulip style).
*) For rich wines (red or white), with complex aromas and aged in barrels, prefer glasses with a larger bowl and rim for greater exposure to oxygen and better promotion of flavors and aromas
*) For fresher, aromatic and light wines (red or white), prefer glasses with a smaller rim that directs the bouquet of aromas to your nose.
*) For sparkling wines, prefer Flut glasses for better preservation of bubbles.
*) For dessert wines, prefer liqueur or Port glasses so that the sweet taste and the aromatic profile are in balance. They are best enjoyed in small quantities anyway.
How do we taste wine?
We could divide the wine tasting into 3 parts:
*) Color: We examine the degree to which a wine is clear or cloudy as well the intensity, highlights and shades of color:
White wines: Green-yellow to amber
Rose wines: Light yellow pink to reddish, light red
Red wines: Reddish to deep dark red with brown hues.
How to test it: Add a small amount of wine to a wine glass. Always hold the glass by the stem so that our body does not change the temperature of the wine. Lean/tilt the glass about 40-45 degrees above a white surface. We observe the shades of wine from the periphery to the center of the circle that is created. In this way we observe the color (intensity, highlights and shades) and the clarity (if it is cloudy or clear). Then we stir the wine, shaking our glass slightly with circular movements. We observe the tears that form on the walls of the glass. Tears are not an indicator of quality but mainly indicate the amount of alcohol and sugars, ie the structure of the wine.
*) Aromas. In the olfactory examination of wine we study the purity, the intensity and the complexity. To see if there are any defects in our wine, smell the wine without stirring it. Many of the defects disappear under the influence of oxygen. Then swirl your glass in one direction (so that the wine does not spill out of the glass) and smell it. The reason we stir our wine is the better interaction of oxygen with the wine for the better promotion and release of aromas. The main aromas we are looking for are aromas of fruits, flowers, herbs and wood / oak.
*) Taste. The final stage and what leaves us the final impression. Take a sip and swirl the wine in your mouth so that it goes to every part of your palate and tongue. The various taste buds are located in different parts of our tongue. We examine whether it is dry or sweet, light or rich in structure, aggressive or soft tannins, acidity and alcohol. Finally, we examine the aftertaste which is the duration of the taste that the wine leaves us after we swallow it. The longer it stays the better our wine is.
Tip: From a professional point of view, a good wine is a balanced wine, with clear aromas, rich structure and a long aftertaste. But from a personal point of view, a good wine is the wine you like and will buy again.
Food - wine combination
Answer: For a unique dinner, the key is the harmony of flavors and aromas. A good dish will bring out a good wine and a good wine will bring out a good dish. This combination can be a combination of similarities and contrasts. The general rules that prevail are:
*) White wines go best with white meats, seafood and white sauces while red wines with red meats and dark sauces.
*) A light dish prefers a light wine while a rich dish prefers a rich wine.
But there are exceptions that confirm the rule ... the secret lies in the sauce and the way the dish is cooked. A fish cooked e.g. with light tomato sauce is harmoniously paired with a light red wine, while a lamb cooked with lemon sauce goes well with a barrel aged white wine (eg Koutsoyannopoulos Nykteri).
*) We pair the sweet wines with desserts, such as chocolate, since is known that food rich in sweetness are combined with full-bodied wines of corresponding, if not even higher sweetness. Otherwise, the wine looks more acidic than it is, less fruity and significantly more tannic and bitter when it comes to red sweet wine.
*) Acidic and salty foods require wines with high acidity.
*) Fatty foods and protein foods require wines with acidity and / or tannins.
*) Spicy foods require wines with low alcohol content.
*) In pasta and risotto, due to their neutrality, the choice of the appropriate wine depends on the sauce that accompanies the dish.
*) Fried foods need wines with acidity to reduce the feeling of oiliness.
*) Dare to play with the flavors of wine and food as you cook.
Defects of wines
Answer: There will be a time when we will be disappointed by the contents of a bottle. We have all had poor quality wine or wine that did not satisfied us tastefully. The main defects that we may encounter are:
*) The "cork" defect may be due to either poor quality cork or unorthodox bottle storage conditions (rarely the winemaker is responsible). The wine smells mainly like mold, damp basement or wet cardboard.
*) Oxidation. Your wine smells like vinegar and its color has brown highlights. This may be due either to unorthodox bottle storage conditions or to unorthodox vinification methods.
*) Unpleasant odors such as rotten egg and burning in the throat. These odors result from the excessive addition of sulfite. Unpleasant odors such as boiled cauliflower or overripe apple are due to bad conditions of storage the bottle.
Tip: In case you encounter the above problems on a restaurant you can call the responsible sommelier to try it on the spot and if there really is such a problem replace your bottle and glasses.
What is wine?
Answer: It is an alcoholic beverage product of the fermentation of the grape juice (must). The ancient Greeks mixed wine with water, usually in a ratio of 1: 3 (one part wine to three parts water). It had special utensils called craters for both mixing and preserving. Drinking wine that was not mixed with water (" akratos wine") was considered barbaric and was used only as medication or during travel as a tonic. They also used to drink their wine with honey as well as use spices. Adding absinthe to wine was also a well-known method (attributed to Hippocrates and referred to as "Hippocratic Wine") as was the addition of resin.
Types of caps on a wine bottle
Answer: In the market we will find various types of caps. The main ones are:
A) Natural cork: Produced from the cork oak (Querqus Suber), or cork tree that grows mainly in Portugal (other places are Spain, southern France, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco)
It is the first material used to cap wine bottles.
*) Depending on the permeability of the cork pores, the partial entry of infinitesimal amounts of oxygen that help the aromatic evolution of the wine into the bottle is allowed. A good quality cork is the best partner of wine
*) It is a natural product.
*) It is an ecological product. By removing the cork from the trunk of the tree we help the physiology of the oak
*) Romantic consumers like to hear the sound of the bottle being opened with natural cork. All the senses are stimulated… hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch.
*) A poor quality cork can give into the wine aromas of cork, ie aromas of mold, wet basement or wet cardboard.
*) Difficulties when opening the bottle, when removing the cork, and closing the bottle after opening.
*) When bottling with natural cork, cork chips may fall into the bottle.
*) In conditions of poor storage of the bottle the cork interacts with the external conditions of the area resulting in either drying, or expanding, or developing insect microbial infestations
B) Synthetic cork: Synthetic cork was created out of the need for a cheaper capping material with a lower chance of developing negative cork odors (TCA).
*) They do not develop TCA
*) They are neutral and do not interact with the wine in the bottle or with the external storage conditions
*) It is economical
*) They are not elastic so they do not always close the bottle tightly. This has the effect of facilitating the permeability of oxygen inside the bottle and therefore the rapid aging of our wine. For this reason they are preferred in direct consumption wines and not in aged wines.
*) Sometimes they close the bottle so tightly that no oxygen, necessary for the evolution of the wine, passes inside the bottle, while at the same time there is a risk of developing unpleasant reducing aromas.
*) It can give aromas of glue and plastic if it is poor quality synthetic cork.
*) Oxygen bubbles are also stored in the synthetic cork which over time pass into the wine
*) Difficulties when opening the bottle, when removing the cork, and closing the bottle after opening.
C) Screw cap. It started in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) aiming at something economical and easy to use.
*) They close the bottle tightly, thus preserving the freshness of a wine
*) The bottles do not need to be placed sideways during their aging.
*) It is easy to open the bottle and close it again. The use of a wine opener is not required.
*) They do not develop TCA and do not interact with the wine inside the bottle or with its external storage conditions.
*) Its use is not indicated in wines with alcohol over 14%.
*) Because it closes tightly, it does not allow the wine to age in the bottle while there is a risk of developing unpleasant reducing aromas.
*) They are usually used in economical mass wines and direct consumption
*) The characteristic opening sound of a bottle of wine is not heard, something that prevents the romantic and traditional consumers from choosing these wines.
In general we could say that in wines for aging natural cork is preferred, synthetic corks are used in direct consumption wines while the screwed ones in direct consumption wines that we want to maintain their freshness.
Answer: Many wonder why there is this recess / depression in the base of a wine bottle. The reasons are mainly practical:
*) Helps to better serve the wine. We always serve holding the bottle with both hands. The right hand is closer to the top of the bottle, while the left at the bottom of the bottle with our thumb in the recess of the bottom of the bottle. This way we have better control of holding the bottle.
*) Better pressure distribution inside the bottle. Sparkling wines use bottles with a larger dent.
*) Best upright support for the bottle. Recessed bottles stand better than flatbed bottles.
*) The sediments that are created settle around the depression with the result that during theserving of the wine in our glass, the wine does not blur.
How to read a wine Label correctly