Let’s talk about whites, and about the duration of elevage – the maturation time between harvest and bottling. Some mature for 12 months or even fewer; others 24 months or more. One thing is certain: This choice does influence the expression of the wine.
The length of elevage is not, however, an independent parameter. For me at least, it should be seen in context with the other, central winemaking parameters.
Some (three) of these (many) parameters are:
- Level of sulphur at bottling
- Choice of closure (Cork? Diam? Screwcap?)
- Length of elevage
This is very complex stuff that decides how the wine will reveal itself in the bottle; how open it will it be when young, how exotic the fruit will be early on, and how structured the wine will be from the beginning. And this doesn’t even start to discuss mined sulphur vs regular SO2. The winemaker’s world is indeed complex.
Long elevage and Diam
I am not an expert on the effects of long elevage on the short- and long-run development of wine. But my experience tells me that long elevage gives a more clearly structured wine, with less exotic – and sometimes slightly generous or even flabby – fruit at release.
Longer-matured wines seem sturdier, perhaps even more robust, and they need more time to show their complexity and generosity. A wine that has aged 12 months longer on oak or tank feels like it has already shed some of its baby fat.
One issue, however, could result from combining long elevage with Diam corks as, in my experience, this can result in a structured and defined wine (good) that somehow seems to have lost some virility or vividness (not good). This combination seems more controlled and precise; this can be both good and also quite tedious if you have a more anarchic view of wine.
Just to be clear: I normally prefer some sulphur in both my reds and whites – not excessive, but sufficient – depending on the wine and the closure.
Higher sulphur levels can produce some of the same effects as long elevage and Diam. Sulphur controls a wine, and kills some of its more flamboyant elements.
Reducing sulphur levels is standard practice when using the Diam cork, and this is most certainly helpful in revealing a wine’s character. But with Diam and long elevage, reduced sulphur still sometimes doesn’t seem to be enough to free the wine – in my mind, that is.
These wines appear to be controlled, with a seriousness that hampers the hedonistic unfolding of the wine, its joy and effortless joie de vivre.
This can, for some, be a minor thing. It is not for me.
In the end I need to understand the long elevage and the true benefits! I want to learn more as always.