As a wine matures over the passage of time it will slowly evolve, developing greater complexity and bottle-aged characters. Complex reactions occur during the maturation process, creating new aromas and flavors as the structure of the wine gradually changes. Ideally, buy a few bottles of each wine you intend to cellar and periodically assess the development of the wine. By doing so, you will discover what the ideal ‘drinking window’ is for each of your wines, in accordance with your own palate.
Do all wines benefit from cellaring?
Luxury wines will reward careful cellaring. However, the optimum bottle maturation period will depend upon whether the wine is red or white, its ‘style’, the format (size) of the bottle and the vintage. Some wines are deliberately made for earlier consumption, whereas others are crafted for the long haul.
As a rule of thumb, red wines generally enjoy longer and more predictable cellaring than white wines. Indeed, some styles of white wine can evolve with ease for a decade or more.
Where is the best place to store my wines?
Wine collectors have the option of cellaring their wine at home or in public storage. If you are unable to provide appropriate conditions for your wine at home, and your collection represents significant investment, then professional wine storage may be the solution.
If you do not have a suitable wine cellar, then a wine storage cabinet (wine fridge) is an economical and practical way of storing wine at home. They are especially useful in warmer climates and high-density living areas. Wine cabinets are designed to store bottles at the optimal temperature for long-term maturation.
The most important cellaring tip is to keep your wine in a steady, cool environment and to avoid significant temperature fluctuations. A constant temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit is better for your wine than 14 to 26 degrees Celsius over a year. The cellaring conditions need to be dark, free from vibrations and from any background odors which may permeate through cork.
Why Cellar Your Wine?
Cellaring your wine is not a necessity; in fact most wines do not need to be cellared. But there are many high-quality wines that improve with age, where the maturation process will allow the wines to evolve to create new aromas and flavors as the wine’s chemical structure gradually changes.
Wine aficionados cellar their wines for a variety of reason, including investment, nostalgia, and to build variety around a favorite region or varietal.
When you’re investing in premium wine known for its flavor in the long-term, the best approach is to buy your wine directly from the winery so that they can tell you directly how long they think the wine will last. They bottle premium varieties which “get better with age” thanks to the right combination of sugar, alcohol, tannins, and acidity. If you want your future experience to actually be better than the flavor profile you know and love, cellar your wine.
Length of Time for Wine Cellaring
Many winemakers intentionally craft their wines for long-term enjoyment. It also depends on your individual taste: do you prefer bolder, more youthful flavors or the mellow flavors of a more mature wine?
The ideal length of time depends on your own taste, the wine’s varietal, the format/size, and the vintage. Here are some of the baseline timeframes of popular varietals:
Light White Wines
Light white wines don’t require much, if any, cellaring. Typically you should plan to enjoy your Rieslings, Prosceccos, and Sauvignon Blancs immediately, or within a year.
Oaked Chardonnays, like Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Chardonnay, can benefit from 5 years of storage.
Lighter red wine, like Beringer Vineyards Pinot Noir Carneros, typical should be cellar between 3-5 years for maximum enjoyment.
Merlot can benefit from between 5-15 years of cellaring, depending on the wine and your flavor preferences. For example, Beringer Vineyards Bancroft Ranch Merlot can benefit from at least 10 years of cellaring, but can go beyond 15 years if the drinker prefers prunes to plums.
When cellaring wine, people typically think of full-bodied wines like Cabernet Sauvignon with good reason. This varietal can benefit from decades of cellaring to help unlock flavors. Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon will continue to surprise and delight after 20+ years of cellaring.
You can enjoy your favorite wines, right from home, as the winemakers truly intended when you follow the proper aging process. Cellaring contributes to a superior drinking experience with premium wines. Improve your knowledge of wine and your depth of appreciation with a commitment to wine cellaring.