The Role of Time in Wine.

By Meritxell Falgueras.

Some call it "sweet anticipation," but as the mother of two children (my youngest was born last summer), I can tell you that those nine months get long, especially the last few weeks. How a human life comes to be and evolves has some similarities to that of a grapevine.


The land makes sure to prepare the plant for the life ahead. Much like we teach our children, we also train the vine, even though we know it will demand a lot from us: resources, patience and, yes, money.


Proper pruning, selecting the best grapes during the harvest, and attentive care are all decisive in determining the quality of a wine. More than anything else, this requires times, a lot of time, because a wine can't and shouldn't be treated like a mere manufactured item. Wine is life, after all, and like a baby it finds its place in the world as it grows up. The age of the vine, the variety and terroir, as well as when the grapes are harvested, find expression in the many subtle notes that we perceive when we taste a wine. The immediacy of those impressions, however, doesn't reflect the years of hard work that went into making it.


The liquid history of a vintage is not the result of improvisation and, although crucial, it isn't the only factor that defines the wine's personality. It is as important as the final days of gestation, which decide, among other things, pulmonary health and the newborn's weight. This is why every day the baby spends in the womb matters—just like every day the grape spends on the vine does too. It is a matter of degrees that are decisive to the wine’s maturation and whether its acidity will be balanced in the future.


A discussion of time and anticipation would not be complete without talking about the ideal consumption moment, different profiles and aging aromas: when red wines begin to lose pigment, the anthocyanins settle at the bottom of the bottle, and the color turns brick red. With whites it is the other way around—over time they darken to such a degree, it almost seems like they want to be reds.


Surveys show that the youngest and oldest households store the least amount of wine.  Only one third of households stores less than three bottles at home while another third stores between four and nine; the last third cellars more than ten.


Like wine, we occasionally want to be something we're not. Primary and secondary aromas gain a bouquet that can be fascinating, albeit less expressive. This could be compared to seasoned lovers whose experience makes up for their fading vigor. Older wines temper the clamor of their tannins and heed the slow pace and serenity of their long finish. Again, time is the decisive factor.


Storing and cellaring wine not only requires an awareness of time, but also treating the bottles with care and attentiveness: the key is 75% humidity, silence, darkness, and a constant temperature of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius.


But remember, be smart about this! A wine isn't better simply because it is older. Nor will cellaring a young wine for several years turn it into an elegant Gran Reserva. Luckily wine doesn't have an expiration date, but an evolutionary arc with a peak where it achieves its full splendor.  


Ultimately, it is less about waiting for that special occasion and more about enjoying a great meal with good wine at the end of an ordinary day. Some say that a wine takes twice as long to go bad than it takes to make it. Broadly speaking, we can say that the longer a wine is barrel aged, the longer it will hold its potential. However, many factors can extend that lifespan—for example, alcohol content, tannin level, acidity, etc.


Getting over an ex sometimes takes twice as long (or longer) than the length of the relationship. But in the end, as the saying goes, time heals all wounds... So if we master aging the way great wines do, everything will turn out well. After all, time is only kind to those who use it wisely.

Meritxell Falgueras

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