November 1st 2017
How does wine develop with age?
We explain everything you need to know about cellaring...
Generally speaking, some wines will improve with age but all wines change in the cellaring process meaning not every bottle of wine necessarily gets better with age. A lot of the art of cellaring comes down to personal taste preference.
The cellaring concept…
Wine undergoes chemical changes throughout the cellaring process. Part of this is slow oxidation of flavour, aroma and colour compounds in the wine.
Cellaring was established originally for red wines which get their flavour and colour from a group of compounds called tannins. The cellaring concept was developed because these tannins can taste bitter and astringent when young which can feel drying on the palate. Over time, when we mature the wine in bottle, those compounds react, absorbing oxygen and forming longer compounds. With the molecules becoming bigger and longer as they combine together, the flavour and mouth feel is softer on the palate.
Cellaring is best suited to fuller bodied red wines as wines that have a lot of colour and tannins will age well and will require ageing to be at their best.
Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris:
If you like drinking aromatic whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, then those styles of wines are designed to be consumed young and fresh – that’s their innate character. These wines throughout the winemaking process aren’t typically held on skins for long periods of time and therefore don’t have the same tannin content as red wines which generally improve when cellared. If cellaring is in fact desired, they will change over time to become less fresh and more complex but not necessarily better.
Chardonnay and Riesling:
Will benefit with some age but will change to become less fresh and more complex.
Sparkling and Champagne:
For Champagne, it really depends on the style of Champagne and personal flavour preference. Aperitifs are generally recommended to be consumed young along with many other Champagne styles – as many of these have been in bottle for several years before purchase already. Sparkling wine will depend on the style. Our recommendation is to ‘just drink’ Champagne and sparkling wine – although it can be kept for up to about 5 years. Keep in mind that it will taste different with the colour deepening and the yeasty characters becoming more pronounced.
Rule of thumb…
Light aromatics – cellar for up to 24 months.
Fuller bodied red wines – cellar for 3-5 years.
Champagne – Consume young but if desired can be cellared for up to 5 years.
Temperature does matter! Keep wine in a place where the temperature is static and doesn’t tend to fluctuate. Wine doesn’t like extreme temperature changes and needs to be in a dark place and ideally below 12-15 degrees Celsius.
Wine is traditionally stored on its side. This comes from when wines were more commonly preserved under cork. To prevent the corks from drying out (from lack of contact with the wine) and therefore spoiling, wines were kept on their sides to ensure the corks were kept moist. Given most wines are now under screw cap, this is no longer as important as it once was.