Cellaring wines for ageing purposes is an enjoyable pastime, and there is a great deal of pleasure to be had in opening an aged, prized bottle of wine to find that it has aged just perfectly.
On the other hand, there is nothing more disappointing than discovering that the special bottle you have been putting off drinking all these years is now undrinkable.
Unfortunately, the only way to know when wine is ready is to taste it.The first thing to keep in mind is that not all wines improve with age - and the price is not always an indicator of a wines ageing potential.
Most wines are consumed within 12 to 18 months after production, and while some wines mature and become better over time, some don’t and need to be drunk within a few years. These wines lack the intensity and structure required for ageing.
A famous name on the label is also no guarantee that the wine will age well. The more tannins that the wine has, regardless of the brand or label, the better it will age.
The average number of years for ageing white wines is between 5 to 7 years, but some red wines can be kept for 30 years or more. Cellaring wines is not an exact science, and there are no hard and fast rules that determine which wines will age well.
The most important factor is the conditions in which wine is stored. Wine should always be stored in a cool dark place at between 8-12⁰c for white wines and 10-16⁰c for reds. When it comes to selecting white wines to cellar, select young, balanced wines with intense flavours and prominent acidities such as Riesling, Hunter Semillon or Chardonnay.
There are many styles of red that age well. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are very good ageing wines as well as blends containing these varieties. Look for young wines with intense flavours, firm tannins, prominent acidity and vibrant colours.
A rule of thumb for ageing Cabernet is up to 10 years, Merlot 4 - 7 years and Pinot Noir up to 5 years. It can be difficult to explain to anyone who isn’t into wine exactly why cellaring is a fascinating and fun thing to do.
For us, cellaring wine is about collecting memories that relate to holidays, experiences, friends and good times, that can often make them harder to open – but eventually, they’ve all got to be enjoyed.■