Learn the art of
Over the years, we’ve had many questions from our members about cellaring their wines. Should I be doing it? What’s the best way to cellar? Do I have to buy a wine fridge? Do all wines get better with ageing? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there and definitely some myths that need to be dispelled for good!
Look no further – we have put together the following guide to explain what cellaring is all about, what happens as wines age and some great tips to ensure your favourite wines reach their true potential.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF CELLARING WINE?
Consider this statistic – it may surprise you.
OVER 90% OF WINE BOUGHT IN AUSTRALIAN BOTTLE SHOPS IS CONSUMED WITHIN TWO WEEKS OF THE PURCHASE DATE.
Yes, that’s correct. And winemakers know this, and that’s why winemaking practices have changed a bit over the last twenty years (the other reason is the rise of the screwcap, but more about that later). We know that sometimes it’s all about instant gratification, and these days most entry and mid-range red wines are made to be very approachable and will drink beautifully as soon as they are purchased. That’s not to say they’re not suitable for cellaring (many are, at least in the short term) but they don’t need to be, if patience is not your strong point. However, as the price point and quality level increases, so does the cellaring potential. Take our Signature Range, for example. We know that the wines in this range start to look outstanding once they are more than 5 years old.
OPTIMUM TEMPERATURE FOR CELLARING WINE
Ok – here is the main thing – the enemy of wine is heat, but just as damaging are constant fluctuations in temperature (such as day to night temperature changes) which may severely impact the condition of the wine.
The ideal temperature for long-term cellaring wine is around 10-14°C, this allows slow controlled ageing for best results. Even a higherthan-ideal, but constant storage temperature (i.e. 18°C) is actually kinder to the wine than a revolving night/day variation of 10-20 deg.
The best option in our sub-tropical climate is to invest in a wine storage cabinet that can maintain this ideal constant temperature. If you have a lot of wine, there are also commercial storage facilities that will cellar your wine for you. Otherwise, store your wine in the coolest and driest place in your home, that has minimal fluctuation in temperature and is away from vibrations and direct sunlight. And please – never store wine on top of a fridge, and never leave it in your car on a warm day.
THE IDEAL TEMPERATURE FOR LONG-TERM CELLARING WINE IS AROUND 10-14°C
DO I HAVE TO LAY THE BOTTLES DOWN?
With cork closures becoming less common, many wine drinkers are confused about this one. For wines under cork, it is definitely best to store bottles on their side, to prevent the cork from drying out, which can let air into the wine and age it prematurely, or cause faults to develop. Most sparkling wines still use corks, and these must always be stored lying down, as if the cork dries out, the bottle can slowly lose pressure – and no one likes sparkling wine that isn’t sparkling! Wines under screwcap can be stored anyway that you like. The important thing when deciding to age a screw-capped wine is to ensure that the cap is in perfect condition – if the cap is dented or damaged, it’s possible that the seal may not be perfect. A good reason to lay red wines down for long-term ageing, regardless of the closure, is sediment. As the tannins, colour pigments and acids go through complex ageing reactions, it is quite common for a small amount of sediment to fall out of red wine. Laying the bottle down for ageing means the sediment forms on the side of the bottle, and the shoulder of the bottle then helps you avoid pouring out the sediment as well as the wine. It is also a good idea to decant very old red wines into a decanter before serving, to avoid the sediment ending up in your glass. (The sediment is harmless, but it may taste slightly bitter and may have a gritty texture. No one likes a mouthful of grit!)
DOES THE WINE STILL AGE UNDER SCREWCAP?
Yes, it does. The same wine will age differently under a cork and a screw-cap, however. Cork is porous and allows a slow, tiny ingress of air which helps the ageing reactions. In general, screwcap wines will age more slowly as they are an airtight seal – which is the other reason winemakers tend to release wines that are ready to drink earlier, so you don’t have to cellar longer to compensate. Wines under screwcap do tend to be a little more forgiving of less than ideal storage temperatures as well, as there is no cork to expand and contract with changing temperatures. And the best thing – you don’t have to worry about cork taint, which can affect up to 10% of wines bottled under cork.
WILL I LIKE THE WINE BETTER ONCE IT’S AGED?
This is an interesting one. In Australia, many people don’t have much experience with wine more than a few years old. Some people actually may prefer the taste of young fruity reds and can mistakenly believe that cellared reds are past their best, because those aged flavours and colours can seem so different. Other people love the extra complexity that cellaring brings. We recommend that you explore the potential of cellaring for yourself.
Start with a case of a single good wine (we can strongly recommend one of our Signature Collection wines) and then be disciplined – store it and drink one bottle each year. Keep a tasting diary to compare each year of ageing, and we’re sure that you’ll come to appreciate the rewards that cellaring can bring.
AS WINE AGES, SLOW INTERACTIONS HAPPEN WITH SMALL MOLECULES JOINING UP TO MAKE BIGGER ONES, MAKING THE WINE SOFTER AND MORE VELVETY.