Here is the bottom line on this fairly well done study: Increasing your hang time will impact your color. However, there was no difference between 1 and 2 weeks after normal harvest dates. Although the authors try to sell this as a study about wine quality, no sensory work was performed and they really only looked at color. Nevertheless, slightly riper grapes seemed to have a little better color stability after 18 months. Reading this article after another recent gem on light and color highlights the possibility that looking at total phenols, or phenols in general is largely deficient in determining quality (an opinion I am developing). The grapes used here may have had more color later, but what about vegetal, peppery, or fruity flavors? Was there a difference at all in characteristics such as these? It seems to me most of us would take the diminished color at ripening stage 1 (about 22.5 Brix) and subsequent lower alcohol if we were confident the flavors were delectable and weren’t going to get any better. But do they get better? Or just stylistically different? If you want a summary of study details see below.
Perez-Magarino, S et. al: J. Agric. Food Chem. 2004, 52, 1181-1189
Tinto Fino (TF) and Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) were used to assess the effect of the degree of grape ripening primarily on wine color. Color changes during ageing of each treatment was also examined. The levels of flavanols, anthocyanins, and derivatives of both types of compounds, were assayed immediately after fermentation and at different times during aging in American oak barrels and in the bottle.
The ripening stages were approximately as follows:
1)conventional’ 22.5 Brix, pH 3.36, TA 7.76 (CS) ; 2) 1 week after (23.6 Brix); and 3) 2 weeks after (~24.2).
Fermentation between 25 and 28 °C with 40 mg/L SO2. The maceration time was ~ 14 days. Pressed at ~ <3 g/L sugar, transferred into barrels where malolactic fermentation and wood aging were carried out.