9 top tips on Cellaring wine

My wife Nicole hates how much wine we have cluttering up the house, and as much as I feel her pain, I can’t help it, because I’ve tasted how great an aged wine can be. Fine – I can help it, but I’m choosing to soothe her with back rubs rather than stop collecting. These are my hot tips.

First (non-official) tip is don’t leave the boxes around where the wife will trip up on them. This one is very important. It probably should come under “tips for a happy marriage”, or “7 good ideas to stop your wife from wanting to kill you.”

  1. Keep it cool and at a constant temperature
    Wines die in hot cars – you can cook a wine pretty quickly before you even get it in the cellar by leaving it in your 30 degree car while you go shopping. Anaerobic reactions in the wine slow down with temperature, to pretty much not doing anything under 10 degrees. This means it’s not aging at a rate that will make a lot of difference in 5 years. Which is great if your 18, won the lottery and are building a huge cellar, not so great for those of us who don’t buy green bananas. 14-18 degrees is ideal, if your cellar is 21 degrees average (i.e it’s lying around your house), I would start drinking them at 5-8 years. If you can’t get them below 25 degrees (I’m looking at you Queensland) buy a wine fridge. Don’t put them in the cupboard above your oven, or near anything that vibrates (like your wife’s beside draw) – it will cook it, or vibrations will make the flavours develop differently (read; it will taste like shite)
  2. Find Cool climate wines for a longer aging potential
    Argue this with me if you want, but I would much rather put a Tasmanian Chardonnay down to age than one from the riverland (sorry Riverland – you have some amazing Fianos and Vermentinos – go try them people). The exceptions are fortifieds and the whites mentioned in the next point. Acid is a great natural preservative; high temperatures can knock out the natural acidity in the grapes, so if they aren’t picked before that happens, porty characteristics can come through the wine when aged. With cooler climates, acids remain because it rarely gets over 35 degrees, allowing flavours and sugars to develop slowly. Cool climate fortifieds can be exceptional too – Di Giorgios fortified Shiraz will age forever.
  3. Whites can cellar too
    There is nothing better in the world than buying a $20 Clare Valley Riesling or Hunter Valley Semillon, and putting it down for 7+ years to be able to wake up a sleeping beauty. These wines with great natural acidity help it age, turning it into a golden explosion of Honey and Lime. What if you don’t like an aged white I hear you ask? Try our aged Riesling – it won’t break the bank, and is one of my favourites ($25). Others to try would be Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon or Wigg Riesling for great value wines (approx.-$35) with a bit of age. Or a Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling aged release ($31).
  4. Try before you buy
    I find the best way to test if a wine will age is to leave a glass in the bottom for the next night, or better yet, have one glass a night over four nights. If it is still good after 4 or 5 nights, stock up baby. If it’s rubbish the next night, just enjoy it as buy-and-drink wine. Australians are famous for knocking down tall poppies, so more often than not expensive wines actually are worth the money. Crap expensive wines have come and gone, the good ones are still here, so go for a brand that has been around more than 5 minutes.
  5. Fridge it
    If you want to open an aged red wine, but are worried that you won’t finish it, don’t fret – put the remainder in the fridge. It will last for 16 times longer than on your bench. And if you can’t finish a good wine within 2 weeks we probably can’t be friends. Just pour it, and give it 5 minutes to warm up. Queenslanders, drink it from an ice bucket because your weather is ridiculously warm.
  6. Don’t Age it too long
    Winemaker Julian Langworthy from Deep Woods Estate always says “It’s better to drink a wine ten years too early than 1 minute too late.” If you are worried it’s too young, decant it. If you don’t have a decanter, pour a glass, put the lid back on, and lie the bottle on its side. Roll it around on your bench or shake it if your friends are 5 minutes away. Check out my other blog on how long does a Coonawarra Cabernet age.
  7. Keep it in the dark
    UV rays can damage liquids easily, hence why all reds are in dark bottles. And why whites used to be. Thanks to those creative types we now prefer our white wine to look pretty so hence all the clear glass. Bearing this in mind, if you want to age a white wine, keep it in the dark.
  8. Enjoy it
    The best advice about wine I ever received was from our winemaker Peter Douglas. He said “never go looking for faults. Enjoy first what is amazing about the wine.” Good advice for life. Don’t overthink it, and make sure it is just the amplifier for a great night.
  9. Don’t cellar wines with cork
    Professional trials and wine shows are still getting about 12% of wines under cork having cork taint. Cork taint, or Trichloroanisole (TCA) at low levels dull the smell of the wine, and can be hard to spot other than the wine being a bit shit. High levels it will make the wine smell like wet mouse, or mouldy cardboard.

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