Wine Cellar Basics 101…Part II

Published July 20, 2012

Probably one of the most important things to remember when aging wine is balance. Ideally, the elements that will help a wine to age are the following:

Tannins are natural organic compounds that are found in the skins of grapes, seeds and stems. These tannins facilitate the aging of red wines by slowing the oxidation process. White wines are made when the grape juice is pressed off the skins prior to fermentation, whereas red wine is fermented with the grape solids. Tannins may also be picked up from the oak used in barrel aging. This is a key component to helping many white and red wines to age. Over time, a fermented and barrel aged Chardonnay will tend to last longer than a stainless steel fermented Sauvignon Blanc.

Acidity is another key element in the wine making process. Considered to be an important aspect in helping both red and white wines mature gracefully, acidity lends itself to the freshness of the wine. If a wine is too high in acid the wine will taste very tart and sour whereas if it is too low in acid the wine will come out flat and dull. The winemaker is usually trained to manipulate the acid level easily.

Lastly, sugar acts as a preservative in wine. Mostly found in Rieslings, desert wines and ports, sugar will lend itself well to the long aging of these kinds of wines. Alternatively, dry wines such as most table wines will not have a significant amount of sugar other than a small amount of residual sugar left over from the fermentation process.

Tannin, acidity and sugar are the three main elements that must be in balance for a wine to age properly, although fruit and alcohol content also play important roles in the balance of wine.

So what does this mean to us as a consumer?

Well, there are some very nice “age-worthy” styles of wine. German and Alsatian Rieslings are tremendously long-lived and will gain complexity with age. Cabernet based wines such as the wines of Bordeaux and California have wonderful reputations for cellar aging. Wine consultants are also excited about the Cabernets coming out of Australia and more recently, South America isĀ  producing fantastic wines of aging potential at comparably reasonable prices.

If you prefer white, then Chardonnays can be wonderful age-worthy wines as well.

The bottom line is to go into your favorite wine store with a bit of background knowledge and ask about what wines they recommend for aging. These are the experts and have spent many hours with the wine representatives discussing the aspects of each wine.

There are also many wines that have been aged for you. These wines are available in wine stores to be consumed now and are ready to be enjoyed today.

Cellar worthy wines may be found at many price points and one does not have to over spend to get a nice wine that will age over time. As a general rule, more modestly priced wines do tend to be made for early consumption; however, there are many wines that will age quite well at very reasonable prices.

Probably the best advice out there for building a wine cellar is the following: Once you have your initial cellar developed, every time to take a bottle out, add two back. You will be amazed how quickly it grows. Documenting each wine is also important. Bottle tags, labels or databases are all good ideas to monitor your purchasing, aging and consumption of your wine.

For more information, contact Dundarave Wine Cellars, West Vancouver.