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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Why do dessert wines taste drier after aging? Is there an actual reduction in sugar content, or is this merely a change in perception?
—Jay K., Toronto
After fermentation—the process in which the sugar in grapes is converted to alcohol—a wine’s basic chemistry doesn’t change. Aging a wine, changing its serving temperature or exposing it to air will change the way the wine is perceived, but not its makeup.
It comes down to perception, and your experiences with aged wine come into play too. As wine ages, typically the juicy, fresh fruit notes will fade and secondary flavors will come into the foreground. So a wine that might taste like fresh apricots when young might take on a more nutty, dried apricot flavor with some cellaring. I’m guessing it’s the fading of the primary flavors that make the aged wines seem drier.
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