Cellaring: How to store your wine

Cellaring doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be fun, affordable and a great investment.

Cellaring is like cataloging and the number one rule is to start a wine book if you plan to start a cellar or clean up your current cellar. I recommend a simple 3 ring binder with pockets and use with plastic pages where you drop in the tasting notes. Why plastic? You tend to re-visit your binder while enjoying wine and helps keep the drips off the pages and if cellaring for a long time the plastic preserves the papers.

When buying wine to cellar it is always a good idea to ask the winery or if purchasing from the LCBO – This can be acquired by e-mail at most wineries. Just contact the winery directly, most will be happy to send you the information.

You can organize your wines by the popular method which is by varietal ex Riesling, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Or I prefer to organize by “Drink by vintage”- that way wines don’t get over looked and miss their prime. Starting with your current year; 2012, 2013, 2014 etc.

How do you know how long a wine will last?

It stems from the production of the wine. Rule of thumb; most stainless steel fermented whites will not last more then 5 years. With the exception of a well made Riesling. Why Riesling? It has high acid which gives the wine more structure and allows it to survive the test of time. Don’t think a 6 year old Riesling will taste fresh and vibrant and citrusy of its youth it will mature into a mix of cooked marmalade and exhibit petrol notes. Don’t be alarmed, Its quite lovely and will give layers of depth but it is distinctly different. Curious? Lay down a well made Riesling Reserve and revisit in 5 years. Or sign up to local tastings where you pay a tasting fee but are able to try wines that have aged. This will give you insight into what you prefer so you don’t waste your time and cellar space.

Barrel fermentation is the key to allowing a wine aging potential. So in whites look for Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc known as Fume Blanc when barrel fermented, as your prime choices for cellaring.  For reds the sky is the limit as most reds (not all) are fermented for some time in the barrel.

How long to lay them down? Usually the tasting notes will give the key to secret. Look at the winemakers recommendation and or how long the wine was in the barrel.  Usually the longer in the barrel the longer the potential to cellar.

Also pay attention to the packaging. If it’s a screw cap it’s a good indicator that the wine is meant to be consumed within 5 years. If it’s a synthetic cork it can last up to 7-10. Real corks are still the best known closures for cellaring (but the jury is still out on synthetic and screw caps). Note with using real corks some wine will be lost to angel’s share because real cork is a natural product and porous so its subjective to become corked (the smell of wet cardboard), get mold or dry out due to improper storage.

To properly store you wines they should be lying on their side so that the cork is always moist. Not upside down or right side up. Cool and dark with an emphasis on dark because light can prematurely age a wine. Cool to prevent the wine from cooking. Not near the vibration of a machine which can disrupt the composition of the wine. Keep away from furnaces.  

Look at the style of wine:

Pinot Noirs & Gamay Noir’s from North America I would consume in 5 years. Pinot Noirs from France also known as Burgundy’s can lay down for much, much longer.

Next Merlots, Malbec’s, Cabernet Franc’s, Baco Reserves, Pinotage all are the mid weights dependent on the production methods the winemakers used. 5-7 years.

Heavy hitters are Amarone’s, Barolo’s, Chianti’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux’s, Rhone Rangers, Shiraz, Rioja’s, Grenache etc. These are your 10 year plus category.

Remember not all varietals are created equal. Lots of Merlots and Cabernet sauvignon’s are produced in a screw cap and done in stainless steel. It very important to get information on your wine you wish to cellar. With Iphones and Blackberries this knowledge is at your fingertips. There are even handy cellaring phone apps to help you catalog your wines. There are Qr4 codes to help you get instant product knowledge.  Cellaring has never been so easy.

Special note to buying wine in the heat: Try to park under shade and not to keep wines in a hot car for more then 1-2 hrs. Pay attention to heat and synthetic corks. In the heat they are the fastest to pop out in warm weather. Do not leave them in direct sunlight. I would keep them in the back seat in a box away from light so that they benefit from air-conditioning opposed to the heat of the trunk. 

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