Many of us believe that wine needs to age prior to drinking but if you have been buying wine lately, you may have noticed that wines, both red and white, are drinking well – even when they are still very young. The market now demands that wine made today is ready to drink today, which is a direct reflection of the majority of the market place in general … “I WANT IT NOW!”
In the early days of winemaking, fruit was picked when it was easy to manage, meaning harvesting fruit that wasn’t fully ripe. Picking ripe fruit on a hot summer’s day presents a variety of challenges, so the alternative of picking fruit a little earlier in the season was the preferred option for many. But the resulting wine from young fruit brings with it a few disadvantages. So in order for the wine to be drinkable, cellaring was essential. The early harvest white wines were astringent, and the early harvest reds were very green. The young wine needed the benefits of ageing, to allow the tannins and acidity to soften to make the wine palatable.
Today, with the benefit of years of experience and the available technologies, ripe fruit with higher sugar content is more manageable in the vineyard and in the winery. R&D and technological developments have had a huge impact on winemaking practices, so producing a palatable wine has become much more accessible. However, there is still woeful wine in the market place made from poor quality fruit. As a price guide, we use above and below the $15 price point. Anything over $15 should be of a good standard in Australia. Under $15, and it could be instant headache material.
Quality white wines will continue to drink well for five to eight years, while the lesser quality whites will need to be consumed within one to two years of the vintage. Low cost reds are not designed to be cellared and will not last beyond a year or two. Better quality red wine will improve up to five years and beyond, depending upon the quality and variety. Quality Australian Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz from good vintages will drink superbly at 20 years plus – patience delivers!
There are a multitude of fabulous vineyards and winemakers in Australia quietly producing outstanding whites and reds that age superbly, way beyond their own expectations. That is one of the many joys of wine … The unexpected!
So if you are planning on cellaring wine for a few years, and there will be some great 2018 vintage reds, proper storage provides an insurance policy for your wine – constant temperature, preferably between 14 – 16 degrees and away from sunlight and fluctuating temperatures. A nice mouldy space is best, as it means the humidity level is good. It is also helpful to lay the bottles with the neck of the bottle slightly inclined. But if you want to drink a nice bottle of red now, spend around $20, and it should be drinkable, without the instant headache.