The wine enthusiast can be a curious creature to casual wine drinkers. In an age where most wines in North America are meant to be consumed in 1-4yrs, the idea of keeping a wine for a decade (or several), seems odd (and unnecessary) to people who regularly consume a plump, high-production wine with residual sugar, low tannins, and mild acidity.
But for those who dare to step out of their comfort zone and delve into the how and why of the wine world, researching and seeking out wines that can rest in a cellar for extended periods of time becomes a hobby, and more often than not, an obsession.
Not that anyone should feel superior or special from this mind you. With the quality of wine increasing, even at a more value price point, it’s hard for some people to justify an extra $20/$30$100 per bottle for something that A) they’ve never had, and B) they can’t drink for what can be a very long period of time.
Whichever wine consumer you happen to be as you read this, we are going to go over the benefits, and dangers, of putting a good wine down, and letting it knit together in a cellar.
Now, remember that not every wine changes and develops the same way. It depends on where it’s grown, the vintage, the style of the winemaker, and where it’s stored,
Wines that come from the new-world (California, Australia, Argentina, etc.) often have more body, more fruit, and less acidity that their old-world counterparts, and you often find that even an age-worthy bottle is plenty drinkable with just a day in a decanter. This is due to the growing season in these very warm areas being much more short, as the grapes have a small window to ripen before too much sugar forms in contrast to the proper acidity needed for a fine wine.
So a new-world wine drank young will still - and should - have a high degree of tannin, so even with time in a decanter, fatty meats are still needed (not that anyone complains). As pleasurable as that is, do not forget that what is tasted initially is but a small hint of what’s to come. Underneath those tannins and dusty fruit lie a slew of secondary and tertiary notes waiting to be discovered, as the aging process lowers said fruity aspects of these big wines, and let the craft of the winemaker come to pass.
On the other end of this spectrum we have the wines of the old world (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, etc.), where many cellar-worthy wines have very little to offer in terms of fruit and other pleasurable notes. The term closed is often used, as the aging process is not just a formality, but essential to the enjoyment of the wine. These areas see a much cooler climate, with a much longer growing season needed to make every second of sun and warmth count in the ripening process. This also leads to more challenging vintages. Many believe a more skilled winemaker is needed to craft a wine that can see several decades pass before its able to be consumed - especially in the white wines.
In the past decade or so we have seen a sort of renaissance if the world of wine-making, as the influences of style and culture cross the oceans, producing wine that feel as though they have been made thousands of miles away. The days of tasting a wine and knowing precisely where it comes has become more challenging, as the idea that you can make great wine anywhere in the world, in any style you please slowly creep into every corner of the world. Worrying for some, exciting for others.
The one factor that never changes, however, is how to store your wine as it develops. All the research and excitement are wasted if you don’t keep your bottles in a place that sees little-to-no fluctuation in temperature. When someone keeps their wine in a kitchen, laundry room, or above a cupboard, the constant change in temperature can ruin a wine in a matter of weeks.
Keeping a wine for 5-10yrs is relatively easy, but letting a wine rest for 20+ years takes a bit more consistency. For those that have a cellar or basement this can be easier, but for those that don’t have these options, try an find an area in your house with the least amount of temperature fluctuation - it will make all the difference.