Regardless, the result is the same, you find yourself with a number of bottles that have to be stored somewhere. What to do?
There is no need to start off with a 5,000-bottle, climate-controlled cellar like those featured in Architectural Digest or Wine Spectator magazines, but the few basic principles below can help ensure that you reap the benefits of ageing your wine.
These days, most mainstream wines are made to be enjoyed upon release but will still benefit greatly from four to six months in a cellar to show at their best. The bottling process and transportation, although much improved in recent years, are still shocking for a young wine and some ageing under the right conditions will allow it to “knit itself together”. The various components: acidity, fruit, and tannins, will become more integrated and harmonious.
More serious reds (and some whites) benefit from cellaring for a year or two, and some wines will age gracefully for decades. Longer cellaring periods help to soften the tannic structure and lead to an evolution of the flavour profile. A wine with mouth-drying tannins and straight forward cherry notes may, over time, evolve to display a velvety mouth feel and dried cherry flavours with nuances of tobacco, dried herbs and leather.
Cellaring will not turn an average wine into a show-stopper. It can help bring out excellence in a wine, but the quality has to be there in the first place.
It is also important to keep in mind that depending on the flavour profile that you enjoy in wine, cellaring wines for long periods of time might not be right for you. As always, it is about your palate and your enjoyment.
Finally, if you cellar wines in any quantity, you have to accept that it is likely that you will open some wines that, although still enjoyable, may be past their prime even if you are very diligent about tracking the evolution of your bottles. Unfortunately that is a by-product of getting to enjoy some of those amazing bottles at their peak.
Three wines that show the wonders of bottle ageing.
Dr. Zenzen Sonnenhofberger Riesling Spatlese 2011
$21.80 ($2 off at $19.80 until November 14, 2017)
Rieslings are white wines with great cellaring potential. The bracing acidity, fruit concentration and in some cases, residual sweetness, enable them to evolve and become more complex over the years, or even decades.
This wine displays some sweetness in variations of peach, dried apricot, honey and marmalade flavours but is balanced by mineral notes and acidity. The nuances of beeswax are just starting to evolve into textbook notes of petrol. It will make a beautiful pairing with zesty aged cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Manchego or with pork belly served with apple glaze. Drink now to 2021.
Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva 2000
By law, Gran Reservas from Rioja are only released after five years of barrel and bottle ageing. Some wineries age them much longer.
Fine-grained tannins, sweet core of fruit, lively acidity, good concentration, complexity; this wine is at its peak and has a lot going for it. Flavours of strawberries, blueberries evolve into leather, incense, olives and floral notes. Pair with grilled lambs chops or with top-notch charcuterie. Drink now to 2019.
Marques de Casa Concha Syrah 2010
D.O. Buin, Chile
Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère often steal the limelight, but Chile produces some great, age-worthy Syrah.
Concentrated blueberry coulis, milk chocolate, ripe raspberry and strawberry flavours give way to cooking spice, leather and floral notes with just a hint of pipe tobacco on the finish. Great fruit concentration and tannic structure balanced by a certain freshness or juiciness despite several years in the bottle. This elegant new world charmer will pair wonderfully with pork ribs prepared with homemade BBQ sauce or a coffee/cacao spice rub. Drink now to 2020.
Cellaring Wine Basics
Temperature and humidity
Ideal temperature is between 10° C and 14° C.
Frequent and rapid temperature fluctuations should be avoided.
Ideal humidity is around 70 %.
If using a refrigerated wine cabinet, it should have humidity control.
Well-ventilated area to avoid musty smell
Don’t store wine where there are strong odors such as in a root cellar (especially if it contains onions) or near heating oil.
Wine, especially white, is sensitive to direct light.
Cellar area should be dark.
Refrigerated wine cabinet with glass doors should have UV protection
Most wines should be lying down to ensure permanent contact of the liquid with the cork.
Screw cap wines can be stored upright
Absence of vibrations
Avoid handling your bottles roughly or unnecessarily and don’t put cellar under the stairs or near a furnace or washer.
Refrigerated wine cabinets should isolate wine from vibrations of the internal compressor.
Bottles can be stored on racks, in individual compartments or even piled on top of each other in cubbyholes.
System needs to be sturdy and allow bottles to be handled carefully, preserving the quality of their label. Don’t forget compartments for large bottles.
Jean-Sébastien Morin is a category manager with P.E.I. Liquor. He is an accredited sommelier, wine writer, educator, and wine judge. His love of wine was born in the late 1980s, while studying and working in Europe. Inspired Grapes aims to transmit Morin’s passion for wine while never forgetting that the pleasure of a glass of wine often resides in the moment and the company in which it is shared. To reach, Morin email firstname.lastname@example.org