Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ask the Winemaker with Pinnacle Ridge

(Borrowed from the February Pinnacle Ridge Winery e-newsletter.)

Pinnacle Ridge wine maker Brad Knapp invites customers to e-mail questions. Brad will select his favorite question and respond in the winery's monthly newsletter.

This month’s question:  Jeff T. from Easton writes: “What makes a red wine keepable? I always hear hold that Cab for about ten years and it will turn into gold. Are the Pa. wines included?”

This is a great question and one that we often hear in the tasting room. Wines change as they age in the bottle. Red wines tend to change color from vibrant reds and purples to brick/orange to brownish-purple colors as they age. The fruit-driven flavors of youth will diminish with time and are replaced by mushroom, herbal and woody flavors. 

Some people like the flavors of aged red wines, whereas some folks like the fruity exuberance of young red wines. Additionally, tannins in red wines will soften with age. Tannins are a class of compounds found in grape skins and seeds.With age, the tannins soften and become less noticeable. If you have a young wine that is very tannic, aging the wine several years (or more) will soften the wine and make it more enjoyable. The only way to find out if you like the flavors of older red wines is to try some. 

What makes a red wine worthy of aging? Red wines that display intense fruit and tannins are likely candidates for aging. The tannins help protect the wine from oxygen and help the wine age gracefully. If a young red wine tastes thin or “weak” or lacks fruit-driven intensity, then it is likely not a good candidate for aging.

In Southeastern Pennsylvania, we are able to produce red wines worthy of aging, particularly in warmer and drier years. I’ve opened many Pinnacle Ridge reds after 8 - 10 years of aging and they have softened and changed and are very enjoyable. The issue of whether the wine has improved is very personal and only your palate knows.

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