There’s always something new to learn about wine. Even the experts learn something new whenever they study, taste and travel.
But what are the keys to understanding aged wines? Wine is a complex liquid and is alive during its entire lifetime. Much like humans, wine changes as time goes by. Each bottle is unique in its transformation. How that grape or wine in the bottle ages is entirely based on grape varietal, region of origin, winemaking style, viticultural practices and vintage, but there are some tricks to help you better understand the how and the why.
Which wines benefit with age? There are grapes and wine styles that can age better than others. Wines that are made with a lower pH like Pinot Noir and Sangiovese tend to have a greater capability of aging. Red wines like Cabernet, Nebbiolo and Syrah can also age well because of their high level of flavour compounds – like tannins and phenolics. Wines with high alcohol and high sugar can also benefit from time in the cellar and white wines such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Chenin Blanc are truly fascinating when aged well. Most premium wines can stand the test of time if they are stored correctly.
Is there a proper cellar environment for wines to age? The quality of an aged wine varies significantly bottle-by-bottle and it all depends on the conditions under which the bottle was stored as well as the condition of the bottle and its closure (screwcap, cork). If you’re looking for the proper conditions, you’ll need a cellar that has proper airflow and air quality, low light levels, a temperature of around 55°F to 60°F, relative humidity at around 50% to 70%, as well as a quiet space for the wine to rest (i.e., no vibrations, loud noise or appliances nearby). Both heat and light will destroy the wines so be wary of all these necessary conditions. Any wine lover will tell you that collecting wine to age in a cellar is an extremely enlightening activity. You might think you only want to age a few bottles and then once you start to collect, it becomes a wonderful hobby.
How should I best store wine in my cellar? Corked bottles should always be stored on their sides. This position prevents the cork from drying out and ruining the wine. It also prevents air from entering the wine – keeping it safe and secure as it lies in waiting for the ideal time to be opened. The connection between the wine and the cork is imperative in the aging process.
How does the taste of wine change as it ages? As most wine ages, the bold flavours they once had tend to soften out and relax. Whether it is white or red wine, fruity flavours tend to become more mellow and move into tones and aromas that are more delicate. For instance, a youthful bold and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon that is full of ripe red and/or black fruit, baking spice aromas and grippy tannins will over time develop softer tannins, relaxed fruit aromas and even notes of leather. Although the taste profile of most wines becomes more relaxed, the overall complexity of the wine is heightened, leaving wine lovers to contemplate the flavours and aromas that a once young wine has matured into.
How should I serve older wines? When you are ready to open a bottle of aged wine from your cellar, there are a few things to remember based on the wine and wine style you are serving. For older fuller bodied reds, you’ll want to slowly decant and filter the wine, while serving it at the proper temperature. Older wines develop lees sediment in the bottle, so be very careful with your bottle as you remove it from the cellar and let it rest standing up. This ensures that the sediment falls slowly to the bottom of the bottle. Once you’re ready to serve, open the bottle very carefully and be gentle with the cork. Many times, the cork may be dry (based on the humidity of the cellar) and can break, so doing this part slowly and properly is the best way to ensure no cork gets into your wine. Once the cork is removed, slowly pour the wine into a decanter with a filter or a candle underneath the neck to observe the sediment. The idea here is to decant the wine while separating it from the sediment. Once decanted, pour into appropriate glassware and enjoy.
Words by Angela Aiello.
A selection of new and established favourites to enjoy now or cellar for the perfect occasion.
WINES OF THE PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE
Visit our online store and begin collecting wines to stock your cellar with our limited-edition holiday collection; Wines of the Past, Present & Future. Wine Club Members receive 15% off all wine purchases and get exclusive access to some of our coveted library wines already aged for your enjoyment. Learn more about the wine club.
2012 Dijon Clone Reserve Pinot Noir, perfectly aged for a reflection of the past. 2020 Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay, a wine ready to open for the present. 2018 Connemara, a rare chance to acquire this wine club-exclusive wine to cellar for future celebrations.