In the cellar door, we are often asked about cellaring and storing wine, and what types of wine to age, so I wanted to answer some of your questions...
Cellaring wine has lots of advantages, the main one being that you’ll always have something to drink that ought to be at its optimum drinking. However, not all wines improve with age, if it is not good when young, it isn’t going to miraculously transform into a great wine with age. Investing in a bottle that has a proven cellaring life is the best way to start. I like to buy 6 or 12 bottles, then open a bottle after a year or so. keeping track of what you thought of each wine as you opened them (there are plenty of apps to help you do this) is a great way to learn if you like your wines younger or older.
As your wine palate matures, the benefit of giving some wines even just two or three years bottle age can open up a whole new world of wine!
If you’ve stashed some wine away and years later you discover a treasure, don’t be afraid to call the winery for guidance, they’ll be delighted to hear from you. We often get calls asking about one of our wines that have been discovered in the wine rack at home. We can give advice on whether it is going to be great now, or even if it has a few more years in it, should you want to keep it longer.
Always call the winery that produced the wine, they will have the best knowledge of the cellaring potential for the wine. (and are almost always happy to advise you)
What wines should I age?
Cellaring wines will change (and generally) improve a well-chosen wine, and this is where buying at the Cellar Door is perfect, as the person will be able to give you the very best advice about the ageing potential of that specific wine.
I’d suggest only ageing Oaked Chardonnays and white wines with higher acidity, such as a dry Verdelho, Riesling and Semillon.
If you have never thought to cellar a dry Verdelho- think again! These crisp white wines develop into the most wonderfully rich, unctuous wine with some bottle age.
The wine ought to have a solid structure, tannins, good acid and oak, plus great fruit! Generally, the less expensive wines don’t cellar for as long, the fruit may be less intensely flavoured, and hence the wine will have less oak, so the structure, essential for ageing will not be as complex.
The Petit Verdot is a terrific inclusion in the wine cellar, it is a bit different and it's not often you see a Petit Verdot on its own. Buy a couple and put away for 3-5 years. I like mine with a few years on it and served in winter with hearty beef cheeks and mash potato...or even a cheese board. I do think a Petit Verdot is a wine best served with food.
How to Store the Wines?
Believe it or not, you do not need a purpose-built wing of the house or basement to age your wines! The two most important factors for cellaring wine at home, are the stability of temperature (don’t worry too much about the actual temperature, as long as it's not hot, it is more important that there aren’t wild fluctuations) and the physical stability of the wine, so try not to move it around too much.
The level of humidity was more important when wine was sealed with corks, as you didn’t want them to dry out, and no longer be airtight. Wines with a cork will need to lay flat (on its side) to keep the cork moist and prevent air entering an oxidising the wine. Stelvin sealed wines (screw caps) can be stored upright.
Ensure that the wines are kept in the dark, as light will lead to more variation in the temperature and can trigger chemical reactions.
When Can I open them?
As a general rule of thumb, if you find a wine that you like (budget permitting) buy a dozen, put 6 bottles within easy reach, and then squirrel away the other six to be enjoyed over x years.
The best wine producers will give you an ageing estimate on the back label, this would be under good cellaring conditions, so use it as an estimate. Do ask at the time of purchasing your wines for the cellaring potential of each wine, and write it on either the bottle or using one of the many handy apps to keep track of your personal cellar.
When buying wine, you probably have a plan as to how long you’d like to keep it for, I’d suggest that you put a sticker with the year that you plan to drink the wine in, on the top of the bottle.
If your wine is an investment, do ensure that you cellar it at the appropriate temperature, about 18 degrees. A small wine fridge for the more expensive in the collection is a good idea.
The most important thing to remember is, ageing wine is a hobby, so don’t get too caught up in the technicalities, just enjoy!