Random Musings #39: Aging like ‘fine’ wine!
Yet another milestone (of sorts) birthday just past, reflection on aging has been inevitable. In addition to groaning inwardly about the relentless march of time!
Am I aging like fine wine or was the compliment just ‘tongue-in-cheek’? The key and operative word, clearly, being ‘fine’!
‘Yes, as a rule, wine gets better with age. Given that aging is a part of the winemaking process, it can safely be said that all wine gets better with age. That’s because the change wine endures during aging is a purposeful, built-in part of the winemaking process.
The creation of wine depends on the chemical composition of grape juice changing. That change is an ongoing process. It never stops, no matter what precautions one takes. Eventually, too much change will occur. But somewhere on that continuum of a wine’s ever-changing composition is a sweet spot, an optimal window. Every wine has one. It’s the window of time when the chemical composition is such that the flavor profile, color, mouthfeel and aroma are all exactly what the winemaker intended.
Wine enthusiasts widely agree that whether or not a wine can be aged isn’t cut-and-dry. But the wine community has settled on four traits to look for in wines that make them better aging candidates. Those are the sugar in wine, wine alcohol content, acid in wine and tannins.
Sugar, alcohol content and acidity are fairly self-explanatory. One might wonder what tannins are. Tannins are derived from the skins, stems, and seeds of the grapes used to produce the wine and also from oak-aging. Tannins are aggregations of compounds that give the wine its bitterness and astringency. Those robust characteristics act as the structure for sweet, fruity, tart, floral and other flavors to orbit around. In red wines only though. As white wines are fermented without the skins. White wines being just fine though, even without the tannins.
- The higher the sugar, the more age-worthy the wine
- Non-fortified wines with lower alcohol content are able to age better and longer. Fortified wines (with high alcohol content, as a result) last very long
- The more acidic a wine, the longer it will last
- Red wines with higher tannins tend to age better
There are other ways to enhance the wine experience besides aging, though. Aged wine has a subtlety and mystique that are unmistakable. However, if one is trying to make wine the best version of itself is to decant the wine or use wine aerators.’
(The paragraphs in the ‘section within quotes’ above have been excerpted, with minor changes, from an article by Joshua Weatherwax on www.binwise.com)
Now, back to me and aging. And, more generally, the effect of aging on people. Do we have key traits, similar or parallel, to those of wines which make us age better or otherwise?
Sugar. Being sweet natured! Defined as ‘having a pleasant temperament and a gentle nature’. One can’t argue with this. One does age well, when one is genuinely good-natured to start with. Two examples spring to my mind immediately — Mum and Mum-in-law. Both carry a warm and constant smile — on their face and in their hearts which reflect in their voice and inter-actions and always. Two people who have and continue to age beautifully and gracefully — bless them!
Alcohol. Spirit! Quality, mood, or attitude of a person. With a spirited person being full of energy, enthusiasm and determination! Again, a couple of people come to mind immediately. They are Mala aunty, Mum’s younger sister and Vishal, a friend for some 25 years. I admire their spirit as they are, and inspire others to be, filled with joie de vivre! And they carry this well along the journey of life with time and age.
Acidity. An acidic personality is one that is sharp, biting, or sour in manner, disposition, or character. However, like with wine, acidity actually adds character to a group. We see this within family, workplace and social groups. We may be put off, on occasion, by them but their straight talking keeps us in check and grounded with a much-needed dose of realism! They tell it like it is and, I for one am convinced that, they have innate goodness within themselves. Life would anyway be boring if all were to conform! Arguably, individuals with a high acidic nature to start with, ‘soften’ and even ‘mellow’ with age while those with a low level of acidity may further flatten and lose any spark!
Tannins. Catalysts! Now, this is an interesting one. As this is all about influences. Internal and external. From conception, through birth, being nurtured and then maturing from exposure to the external world. Color being added to our lives with love and kindness and matching measures of bitterness and disappointments serving to bring out our characteristics. The richer the mix, the better the aging.
And like wine, with age we develop our subtleties, nuances and quirks! Adding mystique and mystery to our persona!
Decanting by moving oneself into a different place to allow ‘sediments’ settle down and to breathe well does help to deal with the process of aging in life. Aerating life by invigorating air does wonders too as we age.
I have ‘decanted’ myself in a couple of ways recently — place of work and place of residence — with both, I would like to believe, helping!
And I am ‘aerating’ too having joined a group of young people for regular games of badminton through the week at a facility a short walk from home in addition to the previous routine of weekend morning games with old friends (old friends as in ‘for a long time’, let me hasten to add). This has been a real infusion of fresh air into my life! That it also leaves me stiff and aching most of the week is but a nuance of aging!
The crucial question though is — have I hit the sweet spot, yet?