One of the beauties of wine is the way it changes in the bottle, so that the same wine will taste different now to how it would have tasted three years ago. There are entire books dedicated to the cellaring of wine, so we’ll try to keep it really simple.
Some wines are made to age, some wine are made for fairly immediate consumption. All wines will get better in bottle for a while, hit their peak, and then start to deteriorate. As wines age, fruit flavours will tend to slowly fade, tannins will tend to soften, colour will tend to dull and tertiary flavours will form. This is a good thing for almost all wines to a point, but for some wines, they will hit their peak in the first year after bottling, and it’s all downhill from there. It’s vitally important if you’re cellaring wine to have a feel for when any given wine will peak.
Some people like aged characteristics in wines more than others, so it’s worth working out what you like in different wines before deciding on ageing. There’s no point cellaring a case of great Riesling, only to discover that you prefer the bright acidity of Riesling in its youth.
For specific wines, it’s worth checking the winery’s website or recent reviews to get a feel for ageing potential.
There’s a common opinion that wines are being made for earlier drinking (compared to wines made 30-40 years ago), because that’s what the market desires. Our experience is probably consistent with that, although there’s still a long list of Australian wines that taste better with some age.
Drinking a wine too young is rarely a bad experience. The wine might be a little too aggressive with fruit or tannin, it might seems like it’s a little unbalanced and hasn’t “come together”, but it will normally still be fairly enjoyable. Drinking a wine too old is a very bad experience. There’s very little fruit or acid, it doesn’t taste great, and you’re left either trying to convince yourself that it tastes OK (which it probably doesn’t), or kicking yourself for not opening it sooner. If in doubt, don’t wait too long.
In our experience, wine ages more quickly under cork than under screwcap. This isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, just something to consider.
Some wines tend to descend into a “hole” at some point in their evolution. For example, young Riesling is typically dominated by high acid and citrus, while well-aged Riesling tends to mellow towards more honeyed characteristics. But in between these two phases, it can taste like not enough of either.
Badly-stored wine very rarely ages well. There’s some debate about the temperature when wine starts to go bad, but it’s likely somewhere between 22 and 26 degrees. If you’re ageing wine for the long haul, try to keep it somewhere cool (15-18 degrees is recognised as ideal). Your wine also doesn’t like exposure to bright light (so keep your wine in the dark) and by exposure to vibration.
Carefully cellared wines can be some of the most unique wine experiences..
Photograph by wine(refined)
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