Are wines sweeter when they are younger?

Kaspars Reitups, by email, asks: Young wines seem sweeter than the same wines when they are older.

What happens to sugars? Do they get more integrated in wine with age and balance out, or do they lose sweetness? Maybe sugars break down (or form a compound) and create sediment?

László Mészarós replies: This is a phenomenon we often experience in Tokaji. Sometimes we say the wine ‘digests’ its sugars, but I don’t know the scientific explanation.

What we do know is that the measurable sugar level does not change. It is the same after 20 years as it was at the bottling – but the wine tastes less sweet.

The sugar doesn’t form any sediment, it just remains in the wine. With time, other molecules and aldehydes can appear, which would change not only the wine’s aroma but also the perception of sweetness on the palate.

László Mészarós is director of Disznókö in Tokaj, Hungary.

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