Some winemakers also bottle-age their wines and in some regions, bottle aging is required by law. This type of aging doesn’t polymerize the polyphenols, as in barrel aging, but it does add complexity to the wines by forming esters. Esters, compounds formed by the combination of acids and alcohols, are volatile and contribute to the development of the bouquet.
Some Old World regions require minimum bottle-aging periods for their wines. The most famous example of this is the minimum aging period established for Champagne.
In Italy, Riserva Chianti must be aged for two years and three months in bottle (these wines released on the third January 1st after harvest). Brunello must be aged four years from the January following the harvest, while Riserva must spend five and of this time, two years must be spent in wood barrels. Barolo must be aged for three years, and Riserva for 4 1/2 years, with one year minimum in wood. Barbaresco must be aged 21 months total with a minimum of 9 months in wood, and Riserva must be aged 45 months.
In Spain, the laws of all regions have been changed to ensure the same minimum aging requirements for each. Vino Joven is aged less than Crianza, which must be aged two years total (with at least 12 months in oak) for reds and one year total (half of that in oak) for white and rosé Crianzas. Reservas must be aged three years minimum with at least one year in oak (two years total with 6 months in oak for whites and rosés), and Gran Reservas must be aged two years in oak and three years in bottle for reds, and four years total with 6 months minimum in oak for rosés and whites. All Cavas, produced using the same methods as Champagne, must spend at least 9 months aging on the lees.
Muscadet sur lie, which derives much of its character from the lees aging, must be aged at least through the winter and be bottled directly off the lees from the beginning of March through the end of June (when 80% of the wines are bottled), or from the 15th of October through the end of November. The wine may be sold only starting on the third Thursday in the March following the harvest. The wine with the shortest minimum aging requirement is probably Beaujolais Nouveau which cannot be released before the third Thursday in the November following the harvest.
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