You splurged on a fancy bottle of wine (read: expensive), and just can’t wait to try it this weekend. When you’re about to uncork it, you check the accompanying tasting note: “Cellar for 5-10 years”. What, wait five to ten years? We live in an age of instant gratification, so why should you even bother? Quite simple: because your waiting will be rewarded. Your wine will develop into an even more interesting and precious drink, but only if stored properly. Let us tell you all about how to store wine, and why you should in the first place.
What is Bottle-Ageing Wine?
First, let’s get something straight: that 20-year old obscure Bordeaux you scored at a yard sale? It’s probably way past its prime. The 2005 Chianti your grandpa has been saving for a special occasion? Ditto. Not all wines get better with age. In fact, around 90 percent of wine produced globally is meant to be drunk within 6 weeks to 1 year. The other 10 percent don’t need decades of ageing, but leaving wine in the bottle for a few more years will help integrate its flavours, soften tannins and result in the development of interesting aromas over time. A tiny percentage of wines can age for extended times, and collectors pay big $$$ for such bottles.
How to Store Wine, Properly
Even wines that you intend to drink within the coming weeks or months need proper storage. Oxygen, heat, light and vibrations are wine’s enemies.
Always place corked bottles horizontally, so that the cork remains in contact with the wine. This prevents the cork from potentially drying out and shrinking – letting oxygen get into contact with wine.
A wine cellar or wine fridge with a constant temperature between 12 and 15 ºC (55-59 ºF) is ideal, but alternatively, look for a relatively cool spot away from heaters. Heat speeds up a wine’s aging process, and can potentially ruin your wine. A study in Italy found that wines stored at room temperature lost colour and antioxidants 4 times faster than properly cellared wines.
Avoid (Artificial) Light
Store your wine in the dark. (Artificial) light can reshuffle the chemical compounds in a wine, resulting in off-flavours.
Wine also doesn’t like vibrations – they can mess up the chemical composition of the wine, dulling flavours. Heavy traffic, nearby railways or vibrating appliances are bad news for ageing wines. That includes the refrigerator in the kitchen. Not only does your fridge vibrate, the humidity of a fridge is too low. Wine’s ideal humidity level should be 55% to 75% (special wine refrigerators do reach these levels).
What Types of Wines can be Aged?
A good rule of thumb is, the pricier the bottle, the higher its ageing potential. A bottle under $35 is probably not going to benefit from a long period of cellaring. How a wine develops depends on its acidity level, residual sugar, tannins and alcohol. If you don’t find ageing recommendations of your wine on the producer’s website, look for other wine lovers’ suggestions on that particular bottle.
Want to Start Building Your Cellar?
At WineCollective, we always add ageing recommendations to our wine reviews. If you’re looking to start building your own cellar, we suggest you check out our Premium monthly package. This three-pack includes all the benefits of our other WineCollective packages, with the inclusion of additional premium, cellar-ready wines.