CELLAR TIPS

Cellaring wine should be fun and indulgant.  Everyone has a different idea about the perfect cellar and the wines you should lay down – but we think it boils down to what you want from your own wine experience.

When we talk about “cellaring”  what we really mean is keeping a wine for longer than 3 months in a cool dark place.

This can be as simple as a closet in your house, all the way through to a purpose built facility with all the bells and whistles. There are lots of rules and guidelines and you will find some of these below, but never lose sight of the first point.

Wine should be fun!

Every Bullion delivery will be accompanied by The Bullionaire newsletter which provides detailed information about each wine, region and cellaring potential.  To go into this type of detail here would spoil the fun for our members, so this section provides some general guidelines to follow when contemplating cellaring wine.

Why do We Cellar Wine?

Quite simply, good wines will improve with age and great wines will become world-class with a bit of time. The tannins that were so strong in the beginning will soften and the result will be a more complex and hopefully more enjoyable wine. Aged wines tend to lose the primary fruit characters they had in their youth as they then develop lovely secondary characters.

However be careful of cellaring a favourite wine for too long. If you are used to the upfront power and flavours of a new Coonawarra Cab or Barossa Shiraz then you might find a 10-15 year old wine somewhat of a disappointment.
At Bullion Cellars we believe that few wines benefit from cellaring beyond 10 years and in fact most wines should be consumed within 5-7 years after the vintage year.  All wines, however will benefit with an extra 6-12 months in the cellar. With the possible exception of Marlborough Sauv Blanc that most experts believe should be drunk in the same vintage year.

Cellaring Wine – The Guidelines

The first thing to learn about wine and in fact cellaring wine, is that there are no hard and fast rules.  Only guidelines.

The seriousness you place on your cellar is determined by you. You could spend close to the purchase price of a 2 bedroom apartment if you’re lucky enough to have the budget and space.  Or you could spend as little as $600 on a fantastic 32 bottle wine fridge.

It gets back to our favourite saying about wine ... “it depends”

It depends on you and what you want to achieve. It depends on whether you  have a spare bedroom or a basement available to convert into a cellar.  Or do you just want a space for 50-100 bottles.

There are a number of companies we can refer you to for help with these options. But what we’re all about is what you put in your cellar – the fun stuff.

There are 4 important things to consider

Temperature            14°C or 55F is ideal, but it must be constant

Humidity                   Between 50% and 80% is OK – but 70% is better

Light                         Darkness is best

Vibrations                 There is no such thing as good vibrations in your cellar

Temperature

The first and most important  factor is a stable temperature (between 14-20°C is OK, but 14 °C is ideal).

Temperature variations are the biggest problem.  So if you have a storage place with a day-time temperature of 25 and a night-time temperature of 14 – this is worse than a storage place with a constant temperature of say 19°C.

Variations in temperature can prematurely age wine and give it a “cooked”  flavour, and may even compromise the seal of a cork.

Remember if you cannot get  to a temperature of  14°C this is not a hanging offence.  Stability is the key  – no matter the temperature changes outside your cellar.

Humidity

Humidity is important for wines cellared under cork.  If the cellar is too dry the corks will dry out and cause the wine to oxidize.  If most of the wines in your cellar have a screw cap this is less important – but we figure if you’re spending money on a controlled temperature, then mainaining a constant humidity as well doesn’t hurt.

Light

Light is simple, you don’t want any.  Too much light is bad for wine as the ultra violet light can prematurely age wines. This is why most red wines are largely bottled in dark coloured bottles.

Vibration

Excessive vibration of a wine bottle will agitate the wine and could speed up the chemical reactions that are still taking place inside the bottle. Movement introduces energy and again affects the process of aging.

What Wines should I Cellar?

A membership to Bullion Cellars can obviously assist by taking some of the guesswork out of the equation.  But keep in mind that if you don’t like the wine now, then putting it in a cellar for 3-7 years will make very little difference.

As a winemaker friend told us “If you don’t like a wine in its youth, it is not going to magically get better in old age”.

When cellaring red varieties, look for wines that have good structure and strong tannins as these are the characters that will soften with age.  For white varieties, look for wines with good acidity and great structure (or balance of flavours).  Acidity is a critical element in aging, particularly for white wines, as this is the characteristic that holds the wine together over time and prevents it becomming “flabby”.

A lot of the guess work can be removed when you know the track record of the winery that makes the wine. This involves how they make the wine and quality of fruit used in the first place. This track record is what guides the decisions of our wine experts and with time, and a better understanding through trial and error, you too will better understand your preferred style of the wines you’d like to add to your cellar.

Type of Cellar

This gets back to the it depends  answer.

Whether wine is a hobby or obsession, and what means you have to support it,  will dictate the number of wines and type of cellar you have – or wish to have. Our advice is to start small and work your way up to that 3,000 bottle purpose-built cellar.

Why not start with a wine cabinet and go from there.  The latest designs are sleek and moden and compliment any space.  Or there is the option of cellaring off-site with a third party storage company. This is great for larger quantities and also ensures the 4 key features mentioned earlier (termperature, humidity, light and vibration) are maintained.

When To Drink My Wines

Our advice is always sooner rather than later.  I would much rather drink a wine just before its peak than after.

The next question is how do I know when a wine is past its peak?  This is simple – when drinking a wine that is past it’s peak it may taste burnt with tones of vinegar, indicating it has oxidized.  Just prior to that, it will taste tired and flat with none of the fruit flavours you may remember on first drinking.

It’s understandable when you spend money on a good bottle of wine that you believe it can only benefit from a long time in the cellar.  But we find that most people have a tendency to keep their special wines too long.

We recommend to always purchase at least 3 bottles of the same wine – or greater when you can.  This gives you the chance to experiment as the wine ages and enjoy it at different stages of its development. Ensuring you don’t miss that fine line between a wine at its peak and one that is past its best.

Wines tend to have a recommended drinking time on the back label, but when in doubt a good rule of thumb is:

White wines     1-3 years

Red Wines       3-7 years

Remember only a handful of wines will benefit, or be still drinkable, after 10 years. So be careful.

What Glassware to Use

It’s not a gimmick – good glassware makes a difference.  And if you can get your hands on Riedel glasses then go for it!
The key is you want a glass that’s large enough to swirl the wine around, with a tapered opening.  This swirling not only makes you look like you know what you’re doing, but it aerates the wine and the tapered opening improves the bouquet.  And it’s also handy to stop the wine spilling out!

You could spend thousands of dollars on different glasses for different varieties.  But at the end of the day two glass shapes should do the trick.  A larger size for reds and a smaller size for white wines.

And when you take sparkling wine and Champagne into consideration you need a third shape – being a flute.  You must drink these styles out of a flute glass. Anything else is just not civilized.

Serving Temperature

In Australia as a rule, red wines tend to be served too warm and white wines are served too cold.

This is problematic because a wine that is too cold masks all the flavours.  Whereas with a wine that is too hot – all you taste is the heat from alcohol and sharpness of the acid, which completely dominates the other elements of the wine.

With night-time temperatures in Australian summers reaching 30°C, we recommend to place your red wines in the fridge an hour before serving.  When opened for dinner it will soon be at the right drinking temperature.

A lot of people laugh at me when I pull a red wine from the fridge. But this trick can make the difference between a wine tasting as the winemaker intended versus a wine that will not match your expectations.

But if your wines are in a properly maintained cellar or wine cabinet, you will never have this problem.

The ideal serving temperature for wines are:

Red Wines: 14-20°C
White Wines: 8-10°C

Upright or Upside Down

This is a really big issue if your wines are bottled under cork. If the wines are kept upright during the ageing process then the cork can dry out and cause oxidization. By having the wine bottle inverted or laying on their side, then the wine is always in contact with the cork and prevents this problem.

Generally speaking it is best to have the wine laying on its side. But if space does not allow this, simply invert the carton.

However, with most of the wines being consumed in Australia now bottled under a screw cap this problem is not important anymore.

A bottle under screw cap can be stored in any position you like as there is no risk of the screw cap drying out.  However, be careful not to knock the top of the screw cap as this could break the seal and cause oxidisation.

Screw Cap vs. Cork

This is an easy question  –  the answer is screw cap.

People have written novels about the pros and cons of both closures.  But the simple answer is if you have a choice – go with the screw cap.  Most winemakers will also tell you this is their preferfed option as it is ensures the wine will taste as they intended.

The consensus is that a screw cap slightly slows down the aging process as no oxygen can seep through the cap like it can with a cork.  But we don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.  However the most important aspect of screw caps is that you do not have a TCA issue which results in a “corked wine”.  That is a wine that smells of musty wet cardboard and tastes even worse.

If you’ve ever had the experience of opening an expensive bottle of wine that you kept for a special occasion only to find it’s “corked” – then I know you’ll agree screw caps are the better option.

Cellar Tips - Bullion Cellars – Premium Wine Club | Buy Wine Online | Sommelier Selected