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Maturing Wines In Separate Stocks

Aug 17, 2007
I am afraid I always have to suppress a grin when people ask me how long a wine needs to mature because I know that all they really want to know is how soon they can drink it. It is surprising the number of people who simply will not believe that wines improve with age. They set about making wines possessed of an urgency which should not exist and an impatience that is hard to believe. They really believe that wine can be made, matured and drunk in six or seven weeks.

With luck, you might get fermentation over and done with and your wines clear and bottled in that time, and truly they are drinkable even so young, but and it is an enormous 'but' wine tasted at that tender age cannot be compared with the same wine tasted a year later. It is impossible to describe the changes that take place, but take place they do. Chemical changes are taking place constantly, so that one batch of wine does not taste the same when sampled at intervals of six weeks.

I know full well that you will be itching to get your teeth into these wines and I cannot blame you for that I'm the same myself, always anxious to sample the latest batch to be bottled off. And it is a waste of time for me to tell you to keep it at least a year before drinking because I know you'll never manage it; especially after you had a taste of it when siphoning it into bottles.

But please do this for your own sake. At bottling time, put, say, two bottles in the attic or some place where they cannot be reached easily send them to me if you like. Seriously, those two bottles of each lot made will soon mount up to a nice little stock. The remaining four bottles from each gallon may be used as required.

The whole secret of building up a stock is to make several lots at the same time and when a jar is emptied at bottling time, start again with another lot. In this way you will always have a few gallons fermenting, several dozen bottles for use as required and a dozen or so slowly growing into a nice reserve.

Then, when the first two bottles put away are a year or two old you may sample them. These will have become such magnificent wines in that time that your lesson will have been well and truly learned and the vow taken that henceforth half of all that is bottled is going to the attic. I hope it does, and I hope even more that you will be able to keep some of it for five years at least. For at five years it is better than age four and at three years old it is better than age two. I have proved all this to myself and have a few bottles of wine that I made over fifteen years ago. Must see what they're like, soon.
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