Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Generally speaking, what’s the difference, on a great wine, between when it is young and old (when it’s drinking well in both situations)?
—Henio B., Natal, Brazil
As a wine ages (assuming it’s been stored well), phenolic compounds link together and drop out of suspension to become sediment, the color fades and/or becomes more brown, fruit flavors move more into the background and secondary notes come more into the foreground. The perception of acidity and tannins also evolves. Most of the time, the wine will seem softer and mellower, though I’ve had older wines where the tannins and acidity are still going strong.
Then there are aromatics and flavors that develop during the aging process called “tertiary” notes. They tend to be complex, with prominent floral, spice, earth and mineral components. When an older wine is really singing, its finish goes on forever. But well-aged, terrific older wines definitely lose their youthful freshness and fruit flavors. I think they can be an acquired taste, and not every wine is meant to be aged.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered