drinking or holding a wine about two years ago, but maybe it's time to take another look.
screwcaps versus corks).
The grape variety will determine the sugar (and ultimately the alcohol) levels, the tannins, and the acids. The vintage is all the affects of climate/weather on the vineyards, which can also influence the final wine product.
The key factors that influence the ageability of a wine are: acidity, residual sugar, alcohol levels, tannins, and ultimately the flavor and aroma of the wine.
Alcohol levels in wine must also be balanced. When I taste a wine, I feel the burn in the back of my throat, if the alcohol is not balanced. Alcohol does not change in wine over time either, so just like acid, it must be in balance.
Tannin is that astringent feeling you get on your gums, after swirling the wine in your mouth. Tannins come from the skins, seeds and even oak aging. We don’t associate white wines with tannins (except from extensive oak aging), but for red wines, it is one of the components that allows the wine to age well. Some tannins are “green” or even gritty. Unfortunately, these types of tannins rarely age well, and actually only get more concentrated. I look for ripe tannins, that will mellow over time, and contribute to a smooth mouthfeel.
As red wine ages, the red color will eventually fade to a light brick red, and ultimately brown. White wines will also move towards golden, then brown. These changes occur due to the chemical and oxygen reactions of the phenolic compounds in the wine.
When I taste a wine, I am looking for concentration of flavors and aroma. If it’s not there in the beginning, it will probably never improve. As a wine begins to age, the aromas will change to a bouquet. Where we tasted fruit in the young wine, now we might taste something more complex, with notes of dried fruit, and earth. The finish will be long and pleasant. However, there will come a point when the wine has reached is “prime” or “peak”, and will not improve any further. It will actually decay, and die in the bottle. The challenge is to try to hold a wine until it’s peak, and no further. There is no set formula for figuring this out, and for that reason, I purchase numerous bottles, and start tasting when I have guessed the optimum aging time (also you can check sites like www.cellartracker.com, and read the notes of other tasters).
In the end, balance is the key. An unbalanced wine won’t age well. When you find a wine that is balanced with great intensity of all the key factors, that is the wine you want to age. The timing, though, is at best guess, and comes with a lot of trial and error. And, of course, it should go without saying....make sure you store the wine properly.