Betty's Wine Musings

Old Wines vs. New Wines

Several months ago, I wrote an article called “Figuring Out the Age of the Wine with a Blind Tasting” where I touched upon what to look for as a wine ages. Today the focus will be on the differences of old wines vs. new wines. Thank you to WineMag and Decanter for their help with this article.


The differences between old wines and new wines
The differences between old wines and new wines

Are We More Likely to Drink Old Wines or New Wines?

In America, wines that you buy at the store are made for immediate consumption. The vintage year (the year the grapes were grown and picked) is likely to be this year or the last two years. Given that we often pick up a bottle of wine to drink with dinner, much of the time we are drinking new wine.

If you’re like me and you like to lie down some of your bottles for a few years, then you are drinking older wines.

I was trying to do some research on how much old wine vs. new wine we drink in America, and I couldn’t find anything. I would have to guess that we drink new wine 75 percent of the time. If you know better than my guess, please share your knowledge!

I learned something interesting today from Wine Folly, who says that youthful red wines may be “better for you” than old red wines. Research reveals that 90% of several key antioxidants in red wines disappear as wine ages. I had no idea.

How Do the Aromas and Flavors Change When Wines Age?

According to Decanter, there are three types of flavors in wine.

  • Primary aromas, such as fruit and floral smells, come from the grape variety itself.
  • Secondary aromas are broadly derived from the winemaking process. These are smells that aren’t from the grape or from aging.
  • Tertiary aromas develop as wine ages.

In a new wine, we typically taste primary flavors such as cassis in Cabernet, apricot in Viognier and lychee in Gewurztraminer. We may also notice some secondary notes associated with winemaking techniques, like buttery, creamy texture from malolactic fermentation.

As wines age, the tertiary aromas start to come into play as the primary aromas subside. For example, your aged red wine might smell like a forest floor. Other common tertiary notes for red wines include leather, truffle, cigar box, tobacco, cedar and mushroom, to name only a few.

In white wines, nutty, mushroom or honey notes can develop.

Texture and Color Differences

Texture is something to note when comparing old wines vs. new wines. Dry, aged whites can become viscous and oily, while reds tend to feel smoother.

Color is one of the best ways to tell if a wine is old vs. new. As white wines age, their pale lemon or golden color can become amber or even brown. Aged reds take on more tawny or brown hues.

Aged reds also tend to have a lighter rim, when you hold your glass against a white background.

Hearing from Dr. Vinny of Wine Spectator

I’ll end this old wines vs. new wines discussion with a great summary from Dr. Vinny of Wine Spectator who says that “As a wine ages (assuming it’s been stored well), phenolic compounds link together and drop out of suspension to become sediment, the color fades and/or becomes more brown, fruit flavors move more into the background and secondary notes come more into the foreground. The perception of acidity and tannins also evolves. Most of the time, the wine will seem softer and mellower, though I’ve had older wines where the tannins and acidity are still going strong.

“Then there are aromatics and flavors that develop during the aging process called “tertiary” notes. They tend to be complex, with prominent floral, spice, earth and mineral components. When an older wine is really singing, its finish goes on forever. But well-aged, terrific older wines definitely lose their youthful freshness and fruit flavors. I think they can be an acquired taste, and not every wine is meant to be aged.


As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers, Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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