“We are like wine,” affirms the saying. This means that over the years we become more mature and sophisticated. But do wines, really gain over time? What kind of wines can be aged? We present you a guide on how to organize your personal wine cellar.
The ancient Greeks and Romans kept amphorae of wine for long periods. Even on the Bible we read that the old wine was highly valued. Today there is an almost universal opinion that wines gain with aging, developing some interesting notes and a more seductive texture. But it is not so true. Only wines with some particular characteristics, from exceptional vintages or outstanding quality, pass the test of time and become more attractive and complex.
The truth is that a small percentage of wines actually have an age potential that exceeds the decades. Most wines are made to be tasted immediately, or to be stored for a couple of years. Only for the “chosen ones” we can wait for 10, 20 or more years.
What wines can be saved?
Many experts say that it is better to drink wine too young than too old. The aging potential depends on the variety, vintage, vineyard, viticulture practices and winemaking style.
For a wine to have an aging potential, the harvested grapes must be very concentrated. A good example is Cabernet Sauvignon. The skin of this variety is thicker; it has more sugar, acidity and polyphenols than other grapes, especially if the vineyard is planted in a place of warm and dry weather.
Then in the winemaking process, oenologist`s decisions regarding to the time of maceration (contact of the juice with the skins) or the ageing in the barrel (hopefully of higher quality) are also critical to project the potential of the wine.
These decisions are translated into good acidity (high acidity wines can be stored for longer), high tannin content and balance (there must be a balance between the contributions of grapes and wood).
Experts also pay attention to the pH of the wine (while lower, more life to the wine), sugar (sweet wines, like a good Late Harvest, age far better than dry ones) and, of course, the level of alcohol. There are exceptions, but generally more moderate alcohol wines do best during the time.
Is there any good reason to start your own cellar?
Why do we keep wines? The reasons are varied and can be actually very personal. Some people think about it as an investment. Some vintages are characterized by the perfect conditions and that’s why the wines of that vintage are highly desired. A bottle from a winery with tradition, from a particular vineyard, such as Puente Alto, and from an exceptional vintage, is the best example. Don Melchor 2010 can be enjoyed since its appearance on the market, but it surely will gain with the aging, and its value will also rise.
Some people keep the wine just for passion and curiosity. They want to see the progress and learn more about wine. If you belong to this group, you can build your collection of wines from various perspectives. You can focus on a particular vintage and purchase a box of Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. Then open the bottles one by one over the coming years. A good idea is to do it every year on the same date because the tasting conditions will be similar. Choose, for example, your birthday, Christmas or other important date in your calendar.
You can also focus on a specific region and keep in your cellar different wines, but of the same appellation. If you spent your holiday in Limarí, you can keep a box of Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay and Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir. With each bottle you will learn more about these wines, but also you will feel again the coastal breeze and the sensation of being on vacation.
What is an old wine like?
After a few years in the cellar, at a cool temperature (13-18 °C), without excessive light, and humidity around 60%, the wine evolves in great shape. All chemical reactions occur very slowly. It is said that every wine has its peak of complexity: a unique moment when it looks and feels perfect. But this moment is always unpredictable, even the same wine may vary depending on the bottle.
Is wine better after a long aging? No. It is different and therefore its grace. A young wine gives us many notes of fresh fruit, lively acidity and persistent tannins. An ancient wine, however, offers very soft tannins, duller color (brownish, in the case of reds) and fresh fruit notes evolve into dried fruit, earthy and herbal notes, leather, tobacco and coffee grains.
For all wine lovers, I recommend to store wines and taste old vintages, to observe their evolution, to go back in time and remember how you were and how you have changed. I’m sure the results will surprise you.