Many of us have the misconception that wine needs to age prior to drinking, but the reality is that the majority of wine made today is ready to drink now! Many will last five years or so, but they won’t necessarily improve or taste any better for the wait.
This hasn’t always been the case. Wine used to be made with cellaring in mind because it had to be, in order to for it to be drinkable. The grapes were picked less ripe, resulting in wine that was more astringent. The young fruit needed ageing in order for the tannins and acidity to soften. Nowadays with the benefit of experience and new technology, ripe fruit with higher sugar content can be more easily handled with the benefit of temperature controlled fermentation.
The more complex and concentrated flavoured wines are typically made from good quality fruit that can and will age well, developing layers of flavours. Quality white wines will continue to drink well for two to three years, while the lesser quality whites will need to be consumed within one year of the vintage. As a price guide, we use above and below the $15 price point.
Similarly with red wine – the 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. Typically the mainstream varieties that age well (five years and beyond) are Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. We have enjoyed quality Cabernet Sauvignons from good vintages that drank superbly at 20 years plus! Other common varieties such as Merlot and Pinot Noir have less complexity and will develop over five years or so, but not much beyond that time.
But as with everything, there are exceptions and there are fabulous vineyards and winemakers that produce outstanding whites and reds that age superbly way beyond expectations, and that is part of the joy of wine … the unexpected!
So if you are planning on cellaring wine for a few years – and there will be some great 2014 vintage reds in particular – you need to store it properly. Constant temperature, preferably between 14 -16 degrees, away from sunlight, a mouldy space is best, as it means the humidity level is good, and store the bottles lying with the neck pointing up slightly.
Story by Steve Attkins from Great Lakes Winery