The Perfect Drinking Age
Ageing wines can be a daunting undertaking, especially if you haven’t ventured into the world of cellaring before. For some wine enthusiasts, it is a serious business with large amounts of money invested. For others, ageing wines is simply for the pleasure of experiencing a wine in its youth and tracking its progress as it ages. But regardless of whether you’re into aged wines for financial or flavour rewards, there are some basic questions you may want answered first – many of which we’ve been asked over the years.
FAQs: Aged Wines & Cellaring Success
Which wines age well?
Some of Australia’s most famous region-variety combinations are also our best wines for ageing. These include: Hunter Valley Semillon, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley Riesling, Barossa Shiraz, Tasmanian Premium Sparkling
How do I know if a wine is suitable for ageing?
There are certain characteristics to look out for which indicate if a wine is worth putting away. These include whether the wine has a good structure, that is, adequate acidity and in the case of red wines, firm tannins. Essentially, acidity and tannins are your building blocks for a wine with ageing potential. But if you’re just not sure, the pedigree of the winery or previously successful vintages can be a useful guide to a wine’s potential. Also, whether you buy your wine direct from cellar doors or from reputable wine sellers, most provide tasting notes outlining the wine’s peak drinking window.
What happens to my wine as it ages?
As a wine ages in the bottle, reds become lighter in colour, while whites become darker. The changing colour in itself if not what is being sought here, but it is a good indicator of what is occurring inside the bottle – it’s the aromatic and flavour shifts in an ageing wine that excite lovers of aged wines. Primary fruit aromas tend to emerge into a more complex ‘bouquet’ as secondary (bottle age) characters mingle with the remaining primary (fruit) characters. At the same time, powerful fruity flavours change into a mix with subtler savoury ones. Acidity and tannin levels fall away, soften and all elements integrate.
Cellaring, what are the basics?
Consistent temperatures of between 12°C to 14°C are key to avoiding adverse chemical reactions which alter the structure and flavour of the wine. Small temperature swings are going to be fine for most home cellars, but choosing to cellar your wine near a window, refrigerator, or hot water tank is not advisable. This leads us to the next main tip for cellaring – keep your bottles in the dark. Similar to the stress placed on a wine with temperature shifts, so too can light have adverse effects on the quality of your wine. Also, it’s best to avoid vibrations, i.e. washing machines and dryers are not great cellaring buddies. And finally, the ideal humidity level should be about 50% and lay your bottles on their side if you are cellaring bottles with cork closures. Bottles with screw cap closures can be stored upright.
How long should I cellar a wine for?
As a general rule for cellaring varieties:
- Up to 2 years: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Vermentino
- Up to 5 years: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot
- Up to 10 years: Riesling, Semillon, Malbec
- Up to 15 years: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz
How can I tell if it is the right time to open an aged bottle?
Not all wines are made with aging in mind, however, all wines age in the same fashion. That is, they have a ‘window of peak drinking’. This window that we speak of, is when a wine is at its peak and will not get any better. What determines when a wine reaches its peak depends on a number of things – variety, vintage, region and style. This peak drinking window can either be soon after vintage, for example Yellow Tail Shiraz is generally a young drinker, or a peak may not be reached until a number of years after vintage, as in the likes of Penfold’s Grange. A young drinking wine will generally have a shorter window, 1 to 2 years. Or a wine made for cellaring can have a window that spans decades. So, the short answer is, it all depends on your bottle. The variety, region, style, and vintage all play a part. As does how the wine has been treated since it has been bottled, and whether or not it has cellared carefully. If in doubt, ask an expert or contact the winery for advice.
Can I buy a wine that is already cellared/aged for me?
Of course, you absolutely can. It’s actually quite easy to experience they joys of aged wines without having to worry about finding a dark cool place in your home, wondering if the wine has what it takes to age well, or if the wine is in its peak drinking time or not. That’s one of the perks of having an expert Tasting Panel as part of the Wine Selectors team. They are there to do all the hard work for you! Our latest catalogue features two aged collections, a white and a red pack, that has been specially curated by our Tasting Panel. Choose from the two packs below and enjoy the nuances of a perfectly aged wine.