You’ve probably heard it said that wine can only get better with age. Will this saying still hold true, though, if the wine is 150 years old? That is what a few wine connoisseurs set out to discover at a food festival held in South Carolina, U.S. According to reports, the wine experts held an historic uncorking of a bottle of wine recovered in 2011 from an 1864 wreck found off the Bermuda coast.
Some of these connoisseurs claimed to have tasted and enjoyed shipwreck wines in the past. Apparently, this wine wasn't one of them.
Some further tasting and chemical analysis later, it was found out that the wine had lost all but 37 percent of its original alcohol content. The tasters commented that it had a strong hint of saltwater along with gasoline and vinegar. Later analysis confirmed the presence of compounds like sulphur and camphor.
This brings some interesting questions: How old can wine get before it loses its quality of flavour? When does wine go off? Although wines are known to age well even after being bottled up, experts say the quality all goes downhill once they're past their prime. That's why, at best, you shouldn't keep a bottle waiting for more than four years.
Unfortunately, "past its prime" is a relatively ambiguous term. The lifespan of a bottle of wine, red or white, depends on the quality. Some wines are known to still taste good even after 100 years, while others won't even last a decade. History, however, has shown that wines aged via traditional methods tend to be of premium quality.
Many premium wines are aged using the solera technique, a system pioneered by the Spanish and Portuguese where barrels are stacked atop each other. The bottom barrels contain wine that's ready for bottling, while the younger wines stay on the upper barrels.
As the bottom wine (Stage I) is bottled, some of the wine from the adjacent level (Stage II) is racked onto the Stage I barrels, and so on and so forth. Young wine gets mixed with traces of the old wine, creating uniformity in taste and texture.
The best wineries in Margaret River carefully pick their grapes, make wine in batches, and age them with traditional techniques to bring you the best they have to offer. If you must, pick a bottle from preferred stockists all over Western Australia, or better yet, experience real cottage dining and beautiful scenery at places like The Berry Farm that tops any 2015 Margaret River wineries list.
(Source: "Wine from Civil War-era shipwreck Mary-Celestia uncorked at South Carolina food festival," ABC News, March 8, 2015)