Wine Storage and Aging
If I say the words "aging wine" do you immediately think of dark cellars stacked with fancy bottles fawned over by rich white men? To be honest, you're probably not wrong and I've been in more than enough of those cellars. But aging wine isn't just about having a huge collection or only opening bottles that are 20 years old.
In fact, the truth is that today the vast majority of wines that are produced aren't meant to "age" in the sense of being put away for 10 - 20 years until they are drinkable. Today most producers produce and release wines that are ready to be drunk now, or in the next few years.
But if you do want some tips about how to keep that special occasion bottle safe and fresh or even just the best way to keep your everyday wines safe and sound we've got you covered.
What Wines Are Worthy of Aging?
Before we get into how to successfully store your wines to age them, we first wanted to talk about which wines are best suited to aging in the first place. The truth is, not all of them are. That doesn't make them bad wines or lower quality, just that some styles and varieties of wine are better suited to aging than other.
As wines age certain qualities diminish and others develop. For some wines that is great. Highly tannic wines will soften and mellow with age, other wines will develop a richness and a depth that makes them even more delicious and complex. But aging can also dull some fresh and more vibrant flavors in wine. And for crisp, bright whites or fruity rosés for example, those aren't exactly qualities you want to lose.
Qualities to Look For in Age-Worthy Wines
Structure - Structure in wine is how all the elements come together including fruit, sugar, body, tannin and acid. For the best age worthy wines you want to look for a wine that is high in either tannins or in acid. Wines that are low in either or both will fall flat if left to age for too long.
Balanced Alcohol - this isn't always a make or break factor but you want to look for wines that don't fall in one extreme or the other. Plus, you want to make sure it fits with the variety of wine itself. So that means a Pinot Noir with 15% alcohol compared to the normal 12 - 14% probably won't age too well. But a Zinfandel with 14.5% alcohol is probably perfectly in balance and age worthy.
- Commonly Aged Wines - Don't try and reinvent the wheel, if you're looking for a special bottle to lay down for a 10 year anniversary or something like that think Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Barolo.
- Minimally Processed Wines - Basically this means that you standard mass produced grocery store bottles are not meant to and won't age well. If that's the wine you love, great stock up. Just pop them open and have a glass don't put it away for rainy day.
- Very Specific Whites - If you do want to lay down a bottle of white wine for a significant chunk of time your best best is either a Riesling, a Chardonnay, or a Chenin Blanc. You want to pick a white that has enough acid but that will also be complimented by some of the richer, nuttier, more oxidized flavors that come along with the aging process.
- Size Matters - Larger format bottles also tend to age longer and sometimes actually need more age because they allow essentially the same amount of oxygen in for double or more the amount of wine. I had a magnum of my birth year Champagne on my 21st birthday and it was still incredibly fresh and delicious
And listen, as I was doing some reading in preparation for this post I came across this quote "any quality wine should age for at least 5 to 10 year". This is attributed to Chris Munro who is the Head of Wine for Christie's auction house in the Americas. And sure, he heads a wine auction house, of course he's going to want everyone to drink expensive wines that you have to lay down for 10 years before they're even enjoyable. But honestly, that's some weird, wine snobbery bullshit. To presume that the only wines of quality are Burgundy's and Bordeaux's is mostly just sad and short sighted if not also highly douchy. And the wine industry wonders why they're losing millennial customers.
I also want to point out that wine storage and aging doesn't mean you need a collection of bottles that you want to age for 10 - 20 years. We have some practical tips for keeping the your everyday collection safe along with that special bottle that splurged for at the winery last summer.
Wine Storage Mistakes and What to Do Instead
Listen, I know the kitchen seems like the best place for wine. Wine and food go together right so why not keep the wine handy right there in the kitchen. But please, please do not store your wine in the kitchen.
I've seen wine in a rack next to the stove or on top of the fridge or even in a cabinet above the oven. And honestly whether you're trying to hold into your wine for 10 years or 10 days don't these are all sure fire places to kill wine fast!
Here's what to do to keep your wines happy:
- Keep it cool (but not cold) - Wine likes cool temperatures, the average cellar temperature is 55°F, but mostly it likes consistent temperatures so store it somewhere that isn't going fluctuate too much. That's why keep it in the kitchen where there are often large temperature fluctuations is no good. Wine and heat also do not mix, so don't leave your wine in your trunk on a hot day and certainly don't store it above your oven. Even just a couple of hours of heat can cook your wine and turn it bad.
- Keep it dark - Hence the dark cellar associations. You don't need your own cellar to store wine, but you certainly don't want to store your wines next to windows or somewhere that they will get hit with direct sunlight. Light exposure is the reason most wine bottles have dark glass, to minimize this as much as possible. But even with dark glass if your wine get a couple hours of direct sunlight everyday that's not going to help and will produce some off flavors in your wine.
- Keep it sideways - or upside down if you have to. Basically you want to make sure that the wine stays in contact with the cork that the cork doesn't dry out. A dry cork could add more oxygen to the wine as well as other wine flaws and off flavors.
So if you don't have a cellar (we wish) or a wine fridge, our best advice is to store your wine in a closet. Either in racks or upside down in cases to keep the corks wet. They tend maintain consistent temperatures and they don't get a lot if any direct light.
Now that you know how to store your wines head over to check out our wine shop and start adding to your collection!