What kind of wines improve with age?

Most wines actually, but it is not as easy as stating a grape variety, a style, region or producer. In general, most high-quality wines age better than low quality wines, of all colours. The ability to age can range from a couple of years to decades. A good rule of thumb is to look out for wooded wines with high acidity and/or high tannin, commonly spotted in Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and blends of both colours. If it makes your mouth cringe or salivate, and the fruit is concentrated and delicious, it is normally age able!

How long can a bottle be left after opening?

The level of wine remaining in the bottle plays a big role, as the lower the level the more oxygen it allows to interact with the wine. Another important factor is youth, the younger the wine, the more stable it generally is against oxygen. And the trick of all tricks, temperature! No matter the colour of the wine, keep it in the fridge once opened, all chemical processes, such as the oxygens breakdown of the wine, is stunted by lower temperatures. Just simply take the red wine out an hour before you need it. As a rule of thumb, a refrigerated wine with more than half the bottle full should last three to four days in the fridge, whilst a good quality sweet wine could last more than a month and still be perfect.

Why do some red wines have screw caps and others have corks? What is the difference between a screw cap and cork?

A very interesting question, that causes a lot of conversation in wine circles. A screw cap is the safest form of seal as it does not have any variations that the cork possesses, the latter can be tainted by a chemical reaction with a bacteria referred to as TCA or cork taint, that sometimes occurs in bark sourced from the lower levels of the cork tree and is not visible or easily detectable before it comes into contact with the wine and spoils it, making it bitter and unpleasant. It often gives a mouldy taste to the wine. On the other hand, a well-aged wine under cork ages with more influx of oxygen, that allows for a softening of the fruit and nicer development. But it could also go oxidised quicker! The simplest way, is to say that screw caps are almost always 90% out of 100%, whilst wines with cork closure can vary from 0-100% and is a riskier choice! In general, the higher quality wines have better quality corks, less likely of spoilage.

Should you leave a bottle of wine to breathe?

Oxygen is your friend and enemy at the same time, oxygen is tasked by the universe to break down all matter. As oxygen is busy breaking down the wine once opened, it makes it smoother, softer and rounder, making it more enjoyable, until it eventually oxidises after a couple of days. So, if the wine is young, or seriously structured, it is good to give it some oxygen. But opening the bottle to breathe is a myth and it would take days to “aerate” the wine. If you want the beneficial effect of oxygen to take place, you need to dissolve it into the liquid, which is exactly what happens when a wine is poured into a glass or a decanter. This is a great benefit to most young wines and is why the last sip always tastes the best.
Got more burning questions to ask? Why not visit WINEderland at the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show, where you are bound to find all the information you need. South Africa's finest wineries under one roof and a galaxy of wine for everyone to explore, from sommeliers to sommer regular folks.

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