How Long Should Northwestern Louisiana Wines Age Before Release?

Most wines from northwestern Louisiana can age for a long time, depending on the vintage and the quality of the crop. The best way to determine which wines to age is through trial and error. Ken and Akiko Freeman found a 4-acre winery near a redwood forest in Sebastopol, Sonoma County, where fog covers the hills most mornings and the daily temperature range of 50 degrees helps the delicate grapes maintain their complexity. A minimum aging of five years is required for these wines, of which at least two years must be in barrels and the rest in the bottle.

For rosés, a minimum of 48 months of aging and at least six months in barrels is necessary. Merlot, a descendant of Cabernet Franc and Magdeleine Noire des Charentes, provides notes of cherry, plum and herbs with soft tannins and a moderate level of acidity. This grape tends to be extremely vigorous, although it is susceptible to frost, corrosion, and downy mildew. It flourishes in the limestone, sand and alluvial soils of the Ribera del Duero.

Pinot Noir, descended from Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, offers notes of black fruit, herbaceous and bell pepper, as well as firm tannins and an increase in acidity. This late-flowering, late-ripening variety is susceptible to a number of complications such as corrosion, wear and tear, cluster rot, downy mildew, and rust. The complexity of high-quality red wines requires time to “unite” their various components in the barrel and the bottle. In normal or colder years, acidity levels are high and may take longer to appear and be more gradual and subtle and add something beneficial to the wine. Before the region became a DO (Denomination of Origin), most producers sold grapes to cooperatives that vinified them and sold the wine in bulk. According to former students in the wine industry, Americans' taste for wine is changing as producers and consumers alike increasingly seek out wines that are fit for food, artisanal, sustainable and that have a strong sense of place.

After the Paris Trial (also known as “the Judgment of Paris”), wine appreciation spread rapidly in the United States. Another trend in the United States is to move from rich, full-bodied wines to those with more acidity and less alcohol. One factor considered most influential in this recent improvement is the replacement of previously existing plantations with specific Pinot Noir mutations that have lower yields but produce more mature and tasty fruits and therefore a superior wine. As a result, high-end Ribera del Duero wines usually carry the basic Cosecha rear label. The best way to determine how long your wines should age is through experimentation. Try aging different varieties for three or four years to see if you like the result.

Also try it with Beaujolais or a good cabernet franc from New York. Keep in mind that time won't speed up for earlier results.

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