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35 Will My Wine Last?


This article is from the WineMaking FAQ, by malak@CAM.ORG (Don Buchan) with numerous contributions by others.

35 Will My Wine Last?

{I heard that home-made wine starts going bad after two years. Is that
true it sounds strange? I was planning to age some is there something
special I should be doing?}

What you're asking -- assuming that the question doesn't come from what
are now misconceptions formed up to the late 1960's when "wine death"
may have been somewhat more common due to kits and grapes sent to
market for use by us "commoners" that were of lesser quality than those
available today -- has to do with things like:

A) Sanitation throughout the winemaking process
B) Whether there are enough preservatives (sulphite, sorbate, ascorbic
acid -- vitamin C)
C) Whether there is enough tannin in the wine
D) Whether the pH is low enough
E) Whether the wine is the "type" that won't mature too soon and become
flat and bored too soon.

A) Sanitation is really important. An infection anywhere from before
innoculation of the yeast to after the wine is corked and everywhere
and every way in between can either cause spoilage or change things
that can be detrimental to the wine.
B) Sufficient amounts of sulphite and sorbate can prevent infections
and growth. The longer you plan on keeping the wine, the higher these
sort of need to be, as things like sulphite can deteriorate with time.
Sulphite and ascorbic acid also help avoid oxidation spoilage.
C) Tannin has some antimicrobial effects as well as other preservative
effects, but levels will decline slightly over the years.
D) A low pH will also help avoid spoilage in and of itself, as well as
increase the other preservatives' -- assuming you use any -- abilities
to keep the wine.
E) Usually if the other things exist plentifully, this isn't as much of
a worry, but it can be. Usually the fruit flavours and other compounds
have to be very concentrated in order for the wine to be worth keeping
beyond 10 years.

A good homemade wine can last about as long as commercial wines.

The main thing you may want to consider is that whether it's made from
fruit (note that in this use, fresh grapes as well as other fresh
fruits as opposed to concentrates are meant), and made from fruit that
would make it appropriate to last a long time. Wines intended to be
kept for a really long time shouldn't be made from a kit.

Most kits will last a long time, but usually peak at a year to a year
and a half.

I (the editor) once made a fruit wine whose last bottle I opened at age
4 1/2 years. I strongly believe that it would have easily lasted --
nay, peaked (and lasted longer) -- at least till 6 or 7. Probably until
8 or 9 or longer. Other people in this group have made wines that no
doubt have lasted way longer.

Wine from concentrate tends to be light and contain little tannin, so
it is usually best drunk within a few years. Although good concentrate-
made 5-year-old red wine can be made, it had begun to fade. The short
life exceptions are Sherry and (to some extent) Chardonnay. Sherry is
deliberately oxidized and keeps for quite awhile. American style
Chardonnay has components from the decomposing lees and malolactic
bacteria which tend to allow a longer life than other dry white wines,
but most Chardonnay reaches its peak in a few years anyhow and may
begin to fade in 5 years.

Red wine from fresh grapes can be very long-lived if it is made to
last. Just remember that many styles of red wine and most styles of
white wine, commercial or home-made, are intended to be drunk fresh or
within a few years.


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