Remember that old adage? Too much of a good thing becomes bad. Yes, these days it’s not just limited to drinking. It’s too much milk, too much meat, too much salt, too much, too much! I’ve never subscribed to such babel since as soon as you’re following the latest wisdom dug up from a limited sampling at some accredited college done by some undergraduate students, they’ll tell you “Oops! “We were wrong.” I tend to listen less these days and act out a lot! However, there are times when it comes to wine that too much is well, too much! This is not a random sampling. We have thousands of years and unlimited subjects in the form of bottles to prove our theory.
What happens to a wine from the first sip you take to the last you swallow? Better asked is why is the last sip so much different and usually so much better then the first? Air, that’s what. Good old oxygen creating that terrible after effect, oxidation.
Too much of anything is bad. But just enough of something can be good. Example: we need plenty of clean water to survive, and so does every other living thing. But water, as important as it is, can turn stagnate, rancid and become the most destructive force known to man. It can spread disease at an alarming rate, turn from life giving to a pure heartless killer. A breeder of death from itself and the creatures that nest within. We also need oxygen to survive and to grow, to become a mature person and so does wine. But if oxygen were pure, would it be good over a long period of time?
Wine being made up of mostly water needs oxygen to develop. We are very careful to keep a blanket of protection on the fruit whether it be off gassing from primary fermentation or from malo conversion. Once the wine is through this process, we protect it in other ways by keeping our barrels topped at all times and adding sulfur if necessary to help prevent the very accelerated aging process. But properly managed, the micro oxidation is important in a wine. While a barrel is tight enough not to leak, it is filled with pores so tiny only air can seep through. Liquid is too heavy to leak out! Yes, the interaction takes place even if the barrel is full with no head space. This process starts the aging and allows the wine to develop to a point of drinkability. Next stop, the bottle!
Years in a bottle if enclosed with a cork, there is also an interaction ever so slight of air reaching the wine to help it breath and help it’s further development. Micro oxidation is important and over a time if the wine was made to age, it will do so gracefully. You will be rewarded with secondary flavors not found in a young wine. Are they better? I prefer to think of them as different, not better, but certainly something to look forward too! I will deal with other enclosures at another time but there is little data for or against the screw cap theory. That is whether the wine will age properly or not and whether it out weighs the risk of T.C.A. or cork taint! Anyway…for another day.
So now you have that wine ready to drink and pour it into a glass. You move it around releasing the bouquet because the oxygen is attacking the wine and the wine locked up for all that time is assaulted with this new environment. As the evening goes on the wine becomes more and more seductive, drinking better and better, until the last glass then seems the best of all. Why? Because it is!
The oxidation rewarded you with just enough development and it liberated the wine to reveal itself in a unembarrassed, naked, less encumbered stage of it’s former self. But the other side of this is the evil outcome. Yes an older wine can do exactly the same thing, but too many open, do a sprint and a dance with the oxygen but fade into oblivion way too quickly. Ah, the risks we are willing to take to reach the pinnacle of drinking pleasure. To prove why we move wine in a glass here’s a little experiment. Take two identical glasses and pour the same amount of wine in each. Swirl one and leave the other alone. Smell and taste the swirled wine and then the other. The noise of the swirled wine will be much more reveling and the finish should be a little more smooth.
So what happens really? This magical transformation, the wine opens, that’s what. All this talk of liberated, naked, unencumbered, seductive, is making me, well, “Thirsty”!
Talk again soon,