Chapter 8

Maturation of Wine

(book excerpts)

Maturation is a period during which the wine evolves at the winery, either in tanks or oak barrels, towards a degree of stability before undergoing fining and tartrate stabilization. Maturation is defined as the bulk storage period whereas aging describes the changes in wine composition after bottling though often the two terms are used interchangeably. Maturation, whether in tanks or barrels, is essentially all about oxidative reactions while aging is more reductive in the bottle. The maturation of wine is a process of refining the wine by expelling most of the residual carbon dioxide, removing sediments and other insoluble materials, and eliminating any raw or harsh odors and tastes. During the process of maturation, the grape-derived aromas fade, and more complex and pleasing aromas develop. The taste of the wine also changes. Astringent and harsh tastes are replaced by smoother, rounder tastes. Change in color can occur during maturation too. The maturation of wine in oak barrels is a technique commonly used in wineries to increase wine stability and complexity. During this process, an organoleptic improvement of the wines is achieved as a consequence of the contribution of oak wood compounds, and the phenolic and aromatic modifications that take place. The time allowed for maturation by a winery is governed by the style of wine desired and generally lasts from 2 months to 3 years. Some wines require only a short period to develop and generally do not benefit from prolonged maturation. Fresh, fruity whites, picnic style blush, light reds, and nouveau style red wines are produced for early consumption and their quality peaks out in a relatively short time. Aging them longer is neither beneficial nor economical. Conversely, premium varietal wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel develop a complex flavor profile during maturation and acquire a pleasant bottle bouquet. Dry reds seem to age well for longer periods than the whites and are often matured in oak barrels. The flavors from oak complements the varietal aromas and the wines are rich, full-bodied, and complex.

Click on the following topics for more information on maturation of wine.

Topics Within This Chapter:

  • Changes in Wine Composition during Maturation
  • Taste and Mouthfeel
  • Bouquet
  • Color
  • Effect of Oxygen on Red Wine Color
  • Effect of Oxygen on White Wine Color
  • Oxidation
  • Wine Maturation Vessels
  • Stainless-Steel Tanks
  • Oak Barrels
  • Medium and Full-Bodied Premium Wines
  • Concrete Tanks
  • Plastic Tanks
  • Wine Racking
  • Frequency of Racking
  • Barrel Management During Wine Maturation
  • Choosing the Right Barrels
  • Racking the Barrels
  • Frequency of Racking
  • Racking Regimes
  • Wine Evaporation Rates
  • Topping Off the Barrels
  • Bungs
  • Barrel Aging Time
  • Aging in Barrels of Different Ages
  • Adding Tannins or Oak Replacements
  • Organoleptic Evaluation
  • Wine Barrel Racking Systems
  • Rack-on-Barrel System
  • Rack-on-Rack System
  • Cellar Temperature and Humidity
  • Sur Lie Ageing for White Wines
  • Benefits of Sur Lie for White Wines
  • Mannoproteins
  • Potential Risks with Sur Lie
  • Maturing Wine Sur Lie in Oak Barrels
  • Managing Sur Lie
  • Batonnage
  • Gross Lees vs. Fine Lees
  • Glucanase Enzymes
  • Wine Blending
  • Blending Rules for the United States
  • Correcting Deficiencies
  • When to Blend Wines
  • Wine Blending Methods
  • Pearson Square
  • Organoleptic Approach
  • Marrying Period