«Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Anything to do with Port.
Post Reply
User avatar
Old Bridge
Niepoort LBV
Posts: 297
Joined: 11:33 Thu 22 Dec 2016
Location: Telemark, Norway

«Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Old Bridge » 09:16 Mon 13 Mar 2017

I am wondering if anybody has an opinion on this.
When port is maturing, does the process go faster in wood than in bottle?

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 23:49 Mon 13 Mar 2017

Not to belabor the obvious, but they age differently. So differently that it's difficult to say whether or not one is faster than the other.

I guess you could measure it by when each is "ready" to drink or "in its prime" for drinking, but then you'd run into problems trying to define the proper drinking window for each type. For wood-aged Ports, there's really no upper limit.
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
DRT
Graham’s 1948
Posts: 14986
Joined: 23:51 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by DRT » 00:49 Tue 14 Mar 2017

I think the answer is an obvious yes, wine matures faster in wood (or, more precisely, when exposed to oxygen) that it does when locked in a glass bottle.

Glenn is correct that they age "differently", in that the final product of oxidative and reductive ageing produces different characteristics, but there is no doubt that oxidative ageing produces a "mature" wine faster than the alternative method.
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

LGTrotter
Dalva Golden White Colheita 1952
Posts: 3673
Joined: 17:45 Fri 19 Oct 2012
Location: Somerset, UK

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by LGTrotter » 00:51 Tue 14 Mar 2017

This point has been much discussed in various threads on this forum, I cannot think where or I would post a link.

Glenn is right that it is rather like comparing apples and oranges, and he is also right that there does not seem to be an upper limit on wood ageing. I was thinking about this question and thought of madeira, a wine which can live pretty much indefinitely in wood, but it is also true that some of the best examples of madeira will be aged in barrel for up to 100 years and then transferred into large glass demijohns, which arrest the concentration of flavours. I find really old madeira almost too intense. Wood ageing tends to produce tertiary flavours, whereas bottling will preserve the fruit flavours for longer, but not forever. Others may disagree (see Alex's note on the 1908 Cockburn) but I think that it is rare for vintage port to live beyond around 80 years. And even then it is a very different drink from what one might usually expect from a vintage port of say, up to 50 years old.

And with port aged in wood for long periods there is also the issue of how long you should keep it once it has been bottled. The most common view is that it should be drunk quite quickly, although again there are others who take a different view. I drink very little (basically zero) wood aged port, but I think I would favour the view that it should be drunk quite quickly once bottled. If only because my experience with madeira indicates that really old wines do not enjoy being shut up in a bottle and can come out quite 'stiff' and in need of a long decanting time.

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 01:22 Tue 14 Mar 2017

DRT wrote:
00:49 Tue 14 Mar 2017
Glenn is correct that they age "differently", in that the final product of oxidative and reductive ageing produces different characteristics, but there is no doubt that oxidative ageing produces a "mature" wine faster than the alternative method.
I started to say something like this, but then I wasn't sure. Which is why I ended instead with the need to define what "ready to drink" means for both styles of wine. "Mature" does not mean "starting to show some age" so I don't think a little bit of oxidation in a young tawny indicates that it's mature. Furthermore, one never talks about a "mature" tawny Port. It doesn't make sense within the context of wood-aged Port.

The rule of thumb for bottle-aged Port is 20 years, right? Of course it continues to mature after that, sometimes for decades, but the general consensus seems to be that ruby Port is mature at around 20 years of age.

Well, the "best bang for your buck" rule of thumb for wood-aged Port is ... surprise! 20 Year Old Tawny Port. Does a 10-yr old exhibit signs of age? Sure, but I also would not call it mature. And in fact for Colheita, I'd argue that most of it isn't "ready to drink" until 30 years old. And as previously mentioned, wood-aged Port continues to age gracefully for decades in wood, even beyond a century. The same cannot be said for bottle-aged Port, as it eventually reaches a point where it's going downhill.
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
Old Bridge
Niepoort LBV
Posts: 297
Joined: 11:33 Thu 22 Dec 2016
Location: Telemark, Norway

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Old Bridge » 07:54 Tue 14 Mar 2017

Thank you all for some very insightful replies.
I read somewhere that the new wine decided for maturation in wood and that for maturation in bottle is chosen due to the wine’s characteristics and expectations.
So it is not just making a big batch of wine and then splitting it for wood maturation and for bottle maturation.
Could that have an influence on the final product’s maturation as well?

PhilW
Taylor Quinta de Vargellas 1987
Posts: 2457
Joined: 14:22 Wed 15 Dec 2010
Location: Near Cambridge, UK

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by PhilW » 10:06 Tue 14 Mar 2017

Glenn E. wrote:
01:22 Tue 14 Mar 2017
The rule of thumb for bottle-aged Port is 20 years, right? Of course it continues to mature after that, sometimes for decades, but the general consensus seems to be that ruby Port is mature at around 20 years of age.

Well, the "best bang for your buck" rule of thumb for wood-aged Port is ... surprise! 20 Year Old Tawny Port. Does a 10-yr old exhibit signs of age? Sure, but I also would not call it mature. And in fact for Colheita, I'd argue that most of it isn't "ready to drink" until 30 years old.
Expanding on what Glenn has said:
- I would agree with 20yr being the good QPR and start of decent tawny (generally, note below)
- I would agree that for Colheita 30yr seems to generally be an equivalent starting point
- I would suggest that the reason for the above is because 20yr is of course a blend, and therefore may well include very small fractions of older wines, which could be critical in achieving the more mature style of 20yr. Indeed, this could be applied to 10yr also; I mentioned above that 20yr would generally be the start of decent tawny, though one clear exception to this for me is the San Leonardo 10yr which I find superb for a 10yr, as good as (if not better than!) some 20yr; whether this is because they have included a dash of say a 30yr in their 10yr blend I do not know, but it could be the case. If I ever make it to Quinta do Mourao (which I hope to, and would love to), it is a question I would ask of Miguel.
- I would suggest that while vintage ruby can be drunk at any age, while some (single quinta especially) might be earlier maturing, that most vintage doesn't really start entering maturity until 25-30 years also. This also seems to be a more recent trend - that in the last few decades it is maturing later - perhaps (pure conjecture here) because the shippers are generally bottling earlier within the allowed range than was often previously true when pipes were shipped?
- Lastly I would bring LBV to your attention given the original question; by keeping the wine longer in wood (4-6yr) before bottling, the wine is then deemed to be ready sooner than the vintage; noting of course that it's not quite the same, implying that the results from aerobic and anaerobic maturation are slightly different, as well as occurring at different rates.

Andy Velebil
Taylor Quinta de Vargellas 1987
Posts: 2441
Joined: 22:16 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Los Angeles, Ca USA
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Andy Velebil » 15:47 Tue 14 Mar 2017

Not easy to answer as it depends on many factors.

In general, as stated, once sealed in a bottle that aging will be less than that stored in wood when comparing aging over the same time period. BUT, that is also affected by how big or small a vessel it's stored in. A small wood barrel will age faster than a very large wood barrel as the contact area is more for the given volume. Same goes for a small glass bottle vs. a large glass bottle. Not to mention how many times said container is racked and the port exposed to more oxygen or even oxygenating it while in a container.

What also wasn't taken into account is the Port itself. As not all Port/wine will age at the same rate. Depending on what qualities it had or didn't at harvest will determine how fast or slow it ages in any container.

All the above would be in reference to a Port that has not had any major finning/filtration/or stabilization treatments. As any of those will also affect how it ages in any container.

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 22:42 Tue 14 Mar 2017

I think the mental block that I'm hitting is equating oxidation with aging. Bottle-matured Port does not really undergo an oxidized aging process while wood-aged Port does. So to then say that wood-aged Port ages faster because it oxidizes more quickly seems... off to me. If a bottle-aged VP were to get oxidized due to a bad cork, most here would say it was faulted not prematurely aged.

I agree with Phil that most VP isn't really mature until 25-30 years old, but thought that was just my preference. It seems like everyone wants to have a tasting as soon as a Vintage Port turns 20 because it's "mature" but I just don't see it. Most people seem to believe that 1980-1983-1985 were relatively weak vintages overall (with specific exceptions), but I think most of them are just now reaching or approaching maturity. At 37-34-32 years old.

Phil - that's a question we asked Miguel at Mourao in 2014, though not explicitly. The answer seems to be that his 10-yr old's "mother wine" is (or was at the time) a 12-yr old blend, but then he does include some older wine (notably a splash of the 1984 which is the mother wine of the 20-yr old). But in a way that makes his 10-yr old even more remarkable, because its average age isn't actually that old and certainly no older than a lot of other 10-yr olds.
Glenn Elliott

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 22:45 Tue 14 Mar 2017

Old Bridge wrote:
07:54 Tue 14 Mar 2017
Thank you all for some very insightful replies.
I read somewhere that the new wine decided for maturation in wood and that for maturation in bottle is chosen due to the wine’s characteristics and expectations.
So it is not just making a big batch of wine and then splitting it for wood maturation and for bottle maturation.
Could that have an influence on the final product’s maturation as well?
This was a subject that was addressed in the FTLOP newsletter a while back in A Question For The Port Trade. The response I remember most vividly was Dirk Niepoort's. He said that he pre-selects what each batch of grapes is going to be because the needs of VP and the needs of Colheita are different. As I recall he went into further detail, but my takeaway was that you can't just split a big batch of wine in two and make both if you want the best possible results for both.
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
DRT
Graham’s 1948
Posts: 14986
Joined: 23:51 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by DRT » 03:21 Wed 15 Mar 2017

Old Bridge wrote:
09:16 Mon 13 Mar 2017
When port is maturing, does the process go faster in wood than in bottle?
I think some of the answers above don't really address the original question, that answer to which is "yes" :wink:
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 05:48 Wed 15 Mar 2017

DRT wrote:
03:21 Wed 15 Mar 2017
Old Bridge wrote:
09:16 Mon 13 Mar 2017
When port is maturing, does the process go faster in wood than in bottle?
I think some of the answers above don't really address the original question, that answer to which is "yes" :wink:
I think the discussion indicates that the answer isn't as clear as you make it seem. :wink: What does it mean for the process to "go faster"?

We've discussed that a bottle-aged Port will reach full maturity and then begin to decline long before a wood-aged Port will do the same (if, arguably, it ever even does), so doesn't that mean that bottle aging is faster than wood aging? A bottle-aged Port is likely to "die" sooner than a wood-aged Port.

We've also discussed that both seem to arrive at their "best drinking window" at approximately the same time - 25-30 years for VP and Colheita, less for LBV and TWAIOA.

Since the aging process of the two is so different, they can't really be compared directly. Only indirect notions such as "prime drinking window" and "over the hill" make sense.
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
DRT
Graham’s 1948
Posts: 14986
Joined: 23:51 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by DRT » 09:43 Wed 15 Mar 2017

I am looking at this in terms of the initial period of maturation. For example:

>> 5 years in wood will produce a wine that is red, semi-transparent very approachable
>> 5 years in bottle will produce a thick, purple, sticky thing

One is clearly developing faster than the other at that initial stage.
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

Andy Velebil
Taylor Quinta de Vargellas 1987
Posts: 2441
Joined: 22:16 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Los Angeles, Ca USA
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Andy Velebil » 17:10 Wed 15 Mar 2017

DRT wrote:
09:43 Wed 15 Mar 2017
I am looking at this in terms of the initial period of maturation. For example:

>> 5 years in wood will produce a wine that is red, semi-transparent very approachable
>> 5 years in bottle will produce a thick, purple, sticky thing

One is clearly developing faster than the other at that initial stage.
What about 5 years in a stainless steel sealed vat, as most young basic Port is stored? :mrgreen:

User avatar
DRT
Graham’s 1948
Posts: 14986
Joined: 23:51 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by DRT » 18:57 Wed 15 Mar 2017

Andy Velebil wrote:
17:10 Wed 15 Mar 2017
DRT wrote:
09:43 Wed 15 Mar 2017
I am looking at this in terms of the initial period of maturation. For example:

>> 5 years in wood will produce a wine that is red, semi-transparent very approachable
>> 5 years in bottle will produce a thick, purple, sticky thing

One is clearly developing faster than the other at that initial stage.
What about 5 years in a stainless steel sealed vat, as most young basic Port is stored? :mrgreen:
That wasn't the original question :wink:
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 23:04 Wed 15 Mar 2017

DRT wrote:
09:43 Wed 15 Mar 2017
I am looking at this in terms of the initial period of maturation. For example:

>> 5 years in wood will produce a wine that is red, semi-transparent very approachable
>> 5 years in bottle will produce a thick, purple, sticky thing

One is clearly developing faster than the other at that initial stage.
LBVs spend 4-6 years in wood to begin their life, and they don't look like what you describe above. But I understand the point you are trying to make.

I have 3 problems with your point and 1 further with the original question:

1. The intent is different, so comparing "approachability" isn't a valid mark of aging.
2. I'd argue that a 5-year old tawny is no closer to being mature than is a 5-year old VP. You're measuring the 5-yr old tawny using VP standards, which is inappropriate. A 5-yr old VP with the characteristics of a 5-year old tawny would be considered flawed or damaged, not prematurely aged.
3. The first 5 years is hardly representative of the entire aging process. I think either maturity or lifespan is a better indicator, preferably maturity. Both reach maturity at approximately the same time.

And the bigger problem: the question implies that wood aging can be used to speed up bottle aging. If I stored a Port in wood for 20 years, would that give me a 50 year old VP?
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
Old Bridge
Niepoort LBV
Posts: 297
Joined: 11:33 Thu 22 Dec 2016
Location: Telemark, Norway

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Old Bridge » 06:26 Thu 16 Mar 2017

"And the bigger problem: the question implies that wood aging can be used to speed up bottle aging. If I stored a Port in wood for 20 years, would that give me a 50 year old VP?"

Nothing untoward is implied in the question.

User avatar
jdaw1
Taylor 1900
Posts: 19668
Joined: 15:03 Thu 21 Jun 2007
Location: London
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by jdaw1 » 20:59 Fri 17 Mar 2017

Wood speeds up bottle aging, but not uniformly. In wood fruit ages faster relative to other components than in bottle.

Andy Velebil
Taylor Quinta de Vargellas 1987
Posts: 2441
Joined: 22:16 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Los Angeles, Ca USA
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Andy Velebil » 13:33 Sun 19 Mar 2017

Glenn E. wrote:
23:04 Wed 15 Mar 2017

LBVs spend 4-6 years in wood to begin their life.....
Uh, not all LBV's spend 4-6 years in wood prior to being bottled.

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 22:13 Sun 19 Mar 2017

Andy Velebil wrote:
13:33 Sun 19 Mar 2017
Glenn E. wrote:
23:04 Wed 15 Mar 2017

LBVs spend 4-6 years in wood to begin their life.....
Uh, not all LBV's spend 4-6 years in wood prior to being bottled.
We'll do a blind sight test (does that even make sense?) next time and if you can tell me which spent 4-6 years in giant wood vats and which spent 4-6 years in giant steel vats then I'll concede that you have a point. :roll:
Glenn Elliott

Andy Velebil
Taylor Quinta de Vargellas 1987
Posts: 2441
Joined: 22:16 Mon 25 Jun 2007
Location: Los Angeles, Ca USA
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Andy Velebil » 03:25 Mon 20 Mar 2017

Glenn E. wrote:
22:13 Sun 19 Mar 2017
Andy Velebil wrote:
13:33 Sun 19 Mar 2017
Glenn E. wrote:
23:04 Wed 15 Mar 2017

LBVs spend 4-6 years in wood to begin their life.....
Uh, not all LBV's spend 4-6 years in wood prior to being bottled.
We'll do a blind sight test (does that even make sense?) next time and if you can tell me which spent 4-6 years in giant wood vats and which spent 4-6 years in giant steel vats then I'll concede that you have a point. :roll:
I'm game...now we need to find a producer who'll do the test for us with the same blend of juice, just stored in two different mediums.

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 21:09 Mon 20 Mar 2017

Andy Velebil wrote:
03:25 Mon 20 Mar 2017
Glenn E. wrote:
22:13 Sun 19 Mar 2017
Andy Velebil wrote:
13:33 Sun 19 Mar 2017
Glenn E. wrote:
23:04 Wed 15 Mar 2017

LBVs spend 4-6 years in wood to begin their life.....
Uh, not all LBV's spend 4-6 years in wood prior to being bottled.
We'll do a blind sight test (does that even make sense?) next time and if you can tell me which spent 4-6 years in giant wood vats and which spent 4-6 years in giant steel vats then I'll concede that you have a point. :roll:
I'm game...now we need to find a producer who'll do the test for us with the same blend of juice, just stored in two different mediums.
Sounds like we need to get Julian to talk to Oscar again! LOL
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
DRT
Graham’s 1948
Posts: 14986
Joined: 23:51 Wed 20 Jun 2007
Location: Chesterfield, UK
Contact:

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by DRT » 02:48 Thu 23 Mar 2017

...and still we come back to the fact that lots of exposure to air and wood develops wine faster that locking it up in a glass bottle.

But feel free to carry on... :roll:
"The first duty of Port is to be red"

Ernest H. Cockburn

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3333
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: «Wood years» vs «Bottle years»

Post by Glenn E. » 05:56 Thu 23 Mar 2017

... which brings us back to develops != aging.

The development that occurs in the two different processes is - surprise! - different.

I maintain that since they reach maturity at roughly the same age that they age at roughly the same rate. Logic prevails.
Glenn Elliott

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests