Our scientific knowledge about what makes wine ageworthy is currently limited.
I know the rules: the things that should make wines capable of ageing. There’s low pH (high acidity), the presence of adequate free sulfur dioxide, and the presence of phenolic compounds.
Increasingly, though, I come across wines that break these rules, and yet age well.
I don’t have an explanation.
In particular, there are two classes of wine that occasionally surprise me with their resistance to oxidation. First, there are some white wines, which you might expect to fall over after a few years in bottle but which just keep on going. Second, some natural wines made without the addition of any sulfur dioxide.
Another observation: this is a generalization, but new world wines tend to age faster than you’d expect, and generally faster than old world equivalents, and this isn’t easily explainable by their chemical composition.
One explanation I have heard suggested is that minerality is the key to positive development with age.
Now I find this explanation very attractive, although it is hard to frame in scientific terms. We don’t have a scientific description for ‘mineral’ in wine.
Could there be some as yet unidentified component of wine that is helping confer ageworthiness on wine, apart from the usual suspects?
Or is it something to do with elevage, the way that a wine is raised in the cellar. In particular, the oxygen regime in the cellar could be key. The presence or absence of sulfur dioxide, the presence or absence of the lees, the way the yeasts grow – these could all be helping to shape the wine in such a way that positive development could take place after bottling.
What do you think?