Wine is a peculiar beverage. It requires attention to detail to taste its best. You cannot expect a wine grabbed at the store and dragged home to taste at its best since travelling regardless of distance “tires“ it and makes it taste less good than it actually is.
Imagine travelling over 200 or more kilometres in a car during a hot day. How do you arrive at your destination? The same happen to the wine even though the distance may be much shorter.
Therefore it is best to start a wine cellar and draw from it as the need arises. Obviously you have a larger choice to choose from when you have a cellar and can match your food with the wine better than otherwise.
Most importantly a cellar need not be huge and require thousands of dollars of investment.
Cellars are generally cool, dark, humid places and require shelving, but if you live in an apartment you can buy properly designed wine storage cabinets at reasonable cost or you can create your own at less cost. Regardless if you decide to start a cellar make sure the wines are properly store. A spoiled wine is tragedy and will embarrass you.
Selecting wine for you cellar will generally require a bit of research. Most wines marketed today are generally meant to be consumed fairly young. This goes for both red and white wines as well as the vast majority of sparkling wines. While price cannot tell you everything about a wine, those intended for daily drinking are generally priced at a level that makes frequent sampling possible for the average consumer. This typically means wines in the $ 14.00 – 17.00 range.
If a $ 17.00 wine is for enjoying young, will a $ 25.00 wine need cellaring to reach its optimum enjoyment level? Will a $ 10.00 wine not be suitable for cellaring? The most accurate answer here can only be the undeniably vague, “that all depends “.
To determine which wines will improve with age, you need to become familiar with such variables as styles, grape varieties, vintages, wine producing countries, and regions. Specific grape varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon or Nebbiolo – produce wines that benefit from more aging than others. The same holds true for certain white varieties – barrel fermented, barrel-aged Chardonnays, Sauternes, sweet Rieslings from Germany and Ontario, and ice wines.
Generally wines from cooler growing regions benefit from longer aging than those from warmer climes. To simplify the matter, it may be best to say that the potential of aging of a wine is based more on the actual structure of the wine than any single grape variety, geographic location, or even vintage.
Wines have naturally occurring elements within that act as preservatives. In white wines these are alcohol, acidity, sweetness, sulphur dioxide, and fruit concentration. Tannins are good preservatives and occur mostly in red wines.
It may be the result of wine making, barrel aging and the grape variety, i .e Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo have naturally more tannins than other red grape varieties.
When wines have a balanced level of these components, particular wines undergo spectacular changes when allowed to age in the bottle under proper conditions.
Unless you have better than average knowledge of wine, it is difficult to tell which wines possess aging potential. There is actually no particularly simple way of determining the age worthiness of a wine. However, you can often get a good idea of a wine’s aging potential by simply tasting it. The taste of a wine in combination with information provided on the label and some basic reading up on the subject can tell you quite a bit about the future of the wine. When tasting a white wine, concentrate on the “ feel “ or “ fullness “. Is it fruity? Is the finish long and persistent? Does it have an acid “ back bone “ to warrant aging? If the wine gives you the impression of having a good structure and substance you may be dealing with a wine that has a good aging potential. The same kind of “ taste test “ works for red wines as well. Here you must factor in the tannin level of the wine. The effect of tannin is the sense of astringency or “puckering dryness“ of the mouth, which provides longevity. In a young red wine, very high tannin levels can make for an unpleasant drinking experience. But if the wine possesses good fruit concentration, alcohol and acidity, tanning will give it the final required ingredient needed to work bottle aging magic.
Unpasteurized wine, unlike almost every other beverage continues to evolve in the bottle. Its ongoing interaction of chemical components just outlined that precipitate change dramatically taste, smell, and texture.
Even if you are a novice, you will be able to detect the difference between a fine wine at its optimum level of maturity and a young wine that still must be aged to reach its potential; This is easier to appreciate in red wines.
Old wines look and smell different. Fill a glass one third full with an older red wine tilt the glass at a 45 degrees angle in front of a white surface. Notice the variation in colour from the centre of the glass to the outer rim. It has a light hue and shows more shades of red than a younger wine, which usually appear to be more homogenous in colour. The old wine smells different. Young, fruit aromas evolve into a harmonized bouquet, which in French means a bunch of flowers.
The old wine has a smooth texture, feels rounder and silkier, and more complex. Young red wines, generally smell of various fruits, astringent and feel coarse on the palate. If talk of polymerized antocyanins, tannin-polysaccharids and ongoing estherification makes your eyes glaze over, don’t worry. All you need to know is that the wine is developing and aging in a way that is much different – but comparable to – the way a person ages. That is, from youth to middle age to full maturity and finally, to the sweet hereafter.
The marrying of wines tannins and fruit components is the prime factor in the wines developing complexity. Aromas and flavours change, tannins soften and sediment often accumulates as natural components settle out of the wine,
hence, the lighter colour. Acids become less pronounced and the wine, overall, becomes kinder and gentler.
The aging process or more properly the evolution process in white wines is a little more mysterious, but the result is more or less the same. With age, white wines darken in colour, acidity softens, and with the oxidization of aldehydes and the formation of esters, aromatic levels intensify.
As suggested earlier, wines don’t last forever. Once they reach their peak, they will hold for an indertminate period of time before fading away, losing all aroma and flavour in the process.
So how do you know when your precious wine has peaked? Unfortunately, you rarely do. While expert estimations can sometimes help, the only real way to know is to open a bottle and taste it. Which is why, when laying wines down, it’s best to stock about a dozen or more of each wine.
In any case, and immature wine is still drinkable. One that is over the hill, is not. So to avoid some real heartache, it’s best to err on the young side.
So what do you do if that bottle of special red isn’t quite ready, or you haven’t had the patience to leave it be for a long enough period? Here’s a solution.
Conventional wisdom dictates that you decant aged red wines. The reasoning is that an old red wine may have thrown sediment that can be rather unsightly and also bitter. If carefully transferred into a decanter prior to serving, this sediment can be kept in the bottle, leaving the wine clear.
Now, if the wine is fully mature and teetering on the edge of potential collapse, any undue shaking or aeration is going to send it right over the edge. It is best to get such wines into the glass and onto the palate with minimal disruption and quickly.
But in the case of burly, immature reds, exposure will help oxidize or “prematurely age “ the wine. So don’t worry to bully them a little.
“Breathing“ is a term employed when using the technique of “opening up“ the wine by decanting or swirling it in the glass. But be careful. Simply uncorking the bottle will leave the open wine with a surface area of about the size of a dime. Meaning that to result in any detectable change, the will have to “ breath “ for so long that your dinner guests may decide to have you call in for pizza and beer rather than suffer the effects of potential malnutrition. Those wonderful decanters with the long slender neck and wide, flat base are perfect for the task of
“ breathing “ wine. The oversized bottom of these vessels maximizes the wine’s exposure to the air, softening them fairly quickly. Besides, serving wine from one of these beautifully designed glass containers lends a touch of sophistication to even the most humble red.
No matter what wines you choose to stock in your cellar, keep in mind on e last point. Bottle size. A wine in a larger bottle will take longer to develop than that same wine in a smaller bottle. The usual wine bottle size is 750 ml. Dessert wines generally come in 375 ml bottles. Some red vintage varieties may come in 1.5 and 3 litre bottles. There are also bigger sizes up to 15 litres.
Champagne bottles have a large range of sizes.