Better your wine show signs of age than your skin right? While you’ve been romping through spring wildflowers and soaking in the summer sun (whilst wearing loads of broad spectrum SPF), your Paso Robles reds have been maturing into wise, elder sages brimming with time-honored excellence. Year by year and decade by decade, those bottles aren’t just breaking down or breaking a hip—they’re becoming more complex, more robust, and tastier, too. Here’s what’s really going on during the aging process and why you should be excited about aging, too. Just don’t skip that SPF!
It’s all about timing
Just like the trees turn color during their journey from spring to winter, so does that velvety red Paso Robles wine change in flavor, aroma, and—yes—color, too. Over the course of one year, one decade, or two, a vintage can really “come into its own,” and you’ll know by the first taste if it’s “aged well.” However, not every wine should be cellared for the same amount of time (or at all). Many whites, but also some lighter reds—are crafted for expedient drinking (read: drink immediately after purchasing). Conversely, a wine made to age can taste quite unpleasant if opened too young. First step: Know thy wine and deduce whether it is, indeed, a one-hit wonder meant to be enjoyed in the heat of the moment, or something with more substantial. Both are good options to have on hand, but only one should ever see the year 2023.
Softening those tannins
How to know if a wine should be cellared? Here’s an easy rule of thumb: Think about the acid and tannin content. Wines high in acid and tannin are meant to sit for long periods of time, developing character in the bottle while you wait. Think: Full bodied Merlot or a bold Cabernet Sauvignon (age anywhere from 7-20 years, depending on the winemaker’s notes), but also the odd Chardonnay or Riesling may be aged (1-5 years is usually suggested). Tannins are the stuff that makes your mouth pucker, but also add structure to a bottle. Over time, these tannins are said to “soften.” This process is thanks to the fact that the tannins actually “polymerize,” or form long chains with each other. These tannin polymer molecules feel and taste less harsh, creating that “rounded” finish you expect with a well-aged wine. See, there really is beauty in the journey.
Colorful changes in store
As humans age, our hair turns gray, our skin turns sallow (blech!). Much like a rugged Hollywood actor, most cellar-worthy wines only get sexier with the passage of time. Not fair, right? Along with tannins, other color and flavor components (polyphenolic compounds, as they’re called) are also known to transform. Red wines lose color while whites wines gain it. That straw-colored chardonnay may turn a deep golden butter hue, while your dark burgundy Malbec may appear slightly copper, or brownish-tinged in the glass. Don’t fret: This is all very natural and totally part of the aging experience. Ah, if only we felt the same way about liver spots and crow’s feet!
Sniff out the difference
One of the best parts about an older vintage is the extremely complex, layered bouquet swirling around in the glass. Sure, fresh, young wines are fun and fruity, but aged wines have a certain je ne sais quoi that is damn near impossible to replicate. Simple fruit aromas transform into savory, spicy, earthy, and spectacularly subtle notes that beckon for one last whiff. Same as with your spouse of 20 years, right? Whatever you loved about the wine initially is still very much there; it’s just now deepened and bolstered by years of experience. Romantic, huh?
Age ain’t nothing but a number
Don’t overthink it. Although there is beauty in waiting for any wine to “ripen” in the cellar, don’t wait forever! Each bottle has its own “sweet spot,” and we suggest checking the label or asking the winery/winemaker before you cellar a wine for too long. Paso Robles is unique in the fact that most tasting rooms are staffed with knowledgeable, friendly folks ready to assist you in your purchase (be sure to ask if similar vintages have faired well when aged as well as if this vintage’s fruit is high in acid and tannins or not so much). Open a wine a tad too early? No big deal—it’s still going to taste great! However, waiting too long presents a true tragedy in our book. At a certain point, the aging process will move past the point of no return—and balance will be hindered (that’s a no-no). So, if the time is right, pop that cork. See where the wine takes you and listen to its trials and triumphs. Every wine has its own story to tell…some just take a little longer to get the narrative going.
These Paso Robles Wines are Delicious, whether sipped now or later:
This inaugural vintage is a reflection of the highest quality fruit yielded from the rocky limestone soils of westside Paso Robles.
This prestigious cuvee is blended from the finest lots to produce a wine of true distinction. This vintage blend is ripe, rich and expansive with beautifully articulated aromas and flavors. It possesses “power and grace,” which is a hallmark characteristic of all great red wine.
Fragrant with heather and chamomile, the profile arrives on the palate modulated, the tiers of flavors playing upon each other. Peaches, Jonagold apples, and pineapples emerge. Kinetic twinges of lemon citrus notes merge with brioche and vanilla. Fine acidity grants an elegant, gliding, and persistent finish.
This wine has lots of curves with a lively fragrant blend of pineapple, ripe banana and pear aromas. Inviting tropical fruit flavors draw you into this well-balanced wine. A creamy richness and harmonious texture end with lingering acidity.
This blog was written by Hayley Thomas Cain, food and wine writer for SLO New Times and PasoRoblesWineries.net. You can reach her at [email protected] or follow her on instagram @flavorslo.
If you’re looking for a place to spend the night in Paso Robles, checkout:
The Adelaide Inn is an iconic, locally owned hotel known for its friendly staff and lush landscaping. With spacious rooms and a convenient location close to highway 101 and the event center – home of the California Mid-State Fair – this hotel is a great choice for most travelers.
Majestically set among vineyards, olive groves and fruit baring orchards, the 20-acre Allegretto Vineyard Resort is a world unto itself, offering breathtaking settings that inspire and bring joy to all who choose this memorable wine country haven. Featuring 171 rooms and suites, on-site spa, grand ballroom, wine tasting room, and inspired culinary creations at Cello, the resort’s full service restaurant.
La Bellasera Hotel & Suites is an elegant boutique hotel nestled in the heart of Central Coast Wine Country. Influenced by Mediterranean and Italian architecture, the luxurious accommodations reflect the aged sophistication of the Central Coast region and the relaxed nature of the California countryside.
Hampton Inn & Suites Paso Robles is nestled in the Central Coast wine region, home to over 200 wineries, beautiful beaches, mountains and diverse attractions. Relax and revive in a comfortable guest room with all you need for a successful stay. You can count on Hampton to deliver value, consistency and service with a smile. We love having you here®
Experience the pristine countryside of Paso Robles Wine Country at Lekai Ranch. Lounge on the porch of your private suite and lose yourself in the tranquility and stunning views of the vineyards and oak studded hills beyond. This vacation rental is located just minutes from some of the most distinguished wineries and a premier olive oil estate, and only 15 minutes from downtown Paso Robles’ restaurants, wineries and shopping.
Enjoy the elegance, style and natural beauty of California’s Central Coast at the JUST Inn®. Surrounded by vineyards, our JUST Inn Suites offer luxurious appointments like fireplaces, Tempur-Pedic®mattresses, Frette linens, hydro-spa tubs, and range in size from 600–1,200 square feet. An overnight stay includes breakfast and a tour of the winery and caves.