How should I store and age wine?

Wine Basics / Serve, Store & Taste

How should I store and age wine?

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Wine Basics Wine Basics

Hands up who’s got a labyrinthine wine cellar with temperature-controlled conditions and a chrome-embellished Champagne fridge? Us neither. Luckily, those of us forced to store our best bottles in the cupboard under the stairs can still benefit from our top tips for storing wine, whether you’ve got a precious trove of treasures for ageing, or simply want to keep your anyday wines in great condition for spontaneous moments of wine-related joy.

Storing wine: the basics

Temperature

Warm temperatures can dramatically speed up maturation – we recommend 10°C-13°C for a steady maturation process. Also avoid places where the temperature is likely to change a lot daily, eg the kitchen or garden shed. Too hot or cold temperatures are bad news and storing wines in the fridge for a long time can cause corks to harden, allowing air in. The result? Stale wine.

Humidity

Humidity generally isn’t bad news (and can prevent the cork drying out) but can ruin labels/cardboard boxes.

Light

Natural and artificial light can cause the wine to heat up and get old before its time.

Position of bottles

Keep wine bottles horizontal so that the cork stays in contact with the wine to keep it from drying out and causing oxidation. Screwcaps can be stored horizontally.

Store wines horizontally to keep the cork from drying out
Store wines horizontally to keep the cork from drying out

Storing wine to drink now

Of course by now we mean now-ish – wine for drinking at the weekend, saving for a party in a few weeks’ time or your stash of anytime bottles. Basically anything you’re likely to drink in the next six months (it’s estimated that 9 out of 10 bottles are consumed within a couple of days of purchase after all). These bottles won’t need quite as much TLC as your ‘ageing’ wines but taking time to make sure your wine is happy will reap rewards with every delicious glassful, so keep them out of direct light and away from extreme temperatures.

Storing wine for ageing

Why would I want to age my wine?

Wine is unique as a drink, because the best not only keep well for decades but become more desirable with age and building up a cellar for the future is one of the most satisfying things you can do. Many bottles will develop complex aromas and flavours, beautiful colour and an indescribable magic that can only be got from several years improving in a cellar. Age can tame the astringent tannins and full-on fruit of more aggressive reds and add beautiful buttery complexity to age-worthy whites.

Need help storing wine? We can help!

Which wines age well?

Look out for really good quality examples of the below and especially from good vintages (our Vintage Chart will help you here). As a rule of thumb, reds with lots of tannin (pinot noir is an exception) and whites with lots of acidity can age really well.

Reds

Cabernet sauvignon
Merlot
Syrah/shiraz
Nebbiolo
Sangiovese
Pinot noir
Aglianico
Tannat
Vintage Port
Whites

Riesling
Chardonnay
Chenin Blanc
Hunter Valley Semillon (Australia)
Dessert wines – Sauternes, Barsac

How exactly do wines age and mature?

Here’s the science bit: with the exception of pinot noir, red grapes for wines to keep have a naturally high concentration of phenols; anthocyanins (the colouring matter found just under the grapes' skins) and tannins (the mouth puckering dry ingredient found also in skins and pips and the wood in which wine is aged.) Acidity also has a large part to play in keeping these wines fresher for longer.

During the ageing process the tannins gradually soften (they 'polymerise' or form larger chemical entities) and the colour changes from bluish red via ruby, mahogany to finally becoming pale and brown. As a rule, red wines get lighter in colour with age whereas whites get darker as they mature.

More importantly, during the process the primary aromas of fresh fruit develop more complex secondary and tertiary aromas giving an aged wine layers of flavour and nuanced aromas that you just don’t get with a young wine.

When is the right time?

It can be tricky to tell when it’s exactly the right time to open the bottle because it depends on several factors; the original quality of the wine (eg the potential of the vineyard and standard of the fruit); the vintage (lighter years mature more quickly); the storage (a dark place and a steady coolish temperature of 13ºC or so help); and even the size of the bottle (half bottles age faster than full bottles or magnums).

It also depends on your tastes. Some people prefer more of the primary fruit juiciness of a younger wine, while others want the added complexity and savoury aromas that come with age. A top-notch wine or good vintage may need a good ten years or more to really sing whereas a younger wine will taste less vibrant than it should it you leave your bottle languishing too long. The best advice is to buy a few bottles of the same wine and drink them over a long period and watch them evolve. This will also help you decide if you prefer younger wines or fully mature ones.

We give recommended drinking dates based on our buyers' long experience of tasting young wines and the advice and experience of the growers themselves , so you can trust the dates we provide in our literature and online.



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