Our guide to cellaring wine
Most wines, especially in Australia, are made to be consumed upon release, however some wines will benefit from aging and careful cellaring. Winemakers strive to make wines that stand the test of time and develop further complexity in 5, 15 or even 30 years’ time. But why would you wait that long? As James Halliday says, “Every time I take a bottle out and drink it, I learn something new, however small, for wine is a living and ever-changing thing”.
Read on below to learn more about what happens to a wine as it ages, which varieties benefit from aging and how to cellar your wines so they stay in prime condition.
What happens to wine as it ages?
Wine is part of an elusive club – it is one of the few things in life that gets better with age. Even in bottle, the chemical composition of a wine is always changing. As a wine ages, compounds such as phenolics (i.e. tannin) can undergo a number of complex chemical reactions which can affect everything from colour to the aromas and flavours. Colours can develop from youthful bright purple hues to brick red and orange-brown overtime. The aroma and flavour compounds evolve from fresh and fruit forward (for example black currant, blackberry and plum) and gain more tertiary aromas and flavours such as mushroom, tobacco, smoked meat and leather.
How can you tell whether a wine will age gracefully or not?
Knowing whether to cellar a wine can be a very tricky decision. As a general rule, lower priced wines will age more quickly and are made to be drunk within a few years of bottling, however some wines really are made for the cellar.
If a wine has high acidity and tannins along with a sufficient level of flavour concentration, it may benefit from aging. Certain varieties (red and white) are prone to ageing better than others (lucky for some!), due to their high tannin level and/or high acidity. For example, high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon has robust, structured tannins and high acidity which allow it to age gracefully. Pinot Noir is a red wine known for its high acidity levels, which can mean that wines can also be cellared for many years. Nebbiolo is a red wine known for high tannin and high acidity, making this varietal one of the most age-worthy wines around the world!
On the other hand, a lighter style of Grenache with low acidity and tannins would not benefit from aging and should be enjoyed while young and fruity.
How do I store my wine?
With appropriate storage techniques, wines will maintain their quality and be given the best possible chance to develop beautifully in the bottle.
There are a few key factors to consider when storing wine:
Constant and cool temperatures are key when it comes to storing wine, sudden fluctuations in temperature can be extremely detrimental. Wine should be stored in a cool, dark place at an ideal temperature of approximately 10°C-15°C.
Wine should be stored in a dark place, natural sunshine or artificial light can damage the wine and affect its flavour.
Wine should be stored away from vibrations and ideally not moved around, as this can disturb the sediment in red wine.
Store wine that is sealed with a cork on its side to ensure the cork remains in contact with the wine. If the cork dries out, it can let in air and the wine will oxidise. Wines sealed with a screw cap can be stored standing up without any risk.
A humidity level of approximately 70% is ideal for storing wine. Too much humidity can cause the wine labels to become mouldy, while low humidity can cause corks to dry out, allowing air to enter the bottle and therefore oxidising the wine.
Our top cellaring wines
Now all that's left to do is pick a special bottle! We have a selection of beautifully aged wines that are drinking in their prime right now – or ones you can choose to cellar and ring the new decade in with!
See our pick of age-worthy wines below:
CELLAR UP TO 2040
"14 days on skins, then straight to barrel (60% new) for 19 months maturation, then a selection of the best barrels. A very expressive and fragrant bouquet sets the hares running for this intense wine sourced from the self-described jewel in Deep Woods' crown. This is a super-elegant and pure expression of cabernet with a virtually indefinite future."
- 97 Points, James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2020
CELLAR UP TO 2035
"This is the initial release of La Maison from this single vineyard site near Hobart. Combines all the best elements of great pinot – elegance, precision, subtle finesse and a fine acidity. On the nose, plum and raspberry notes with darker cherry notes emerge. The palate is super intense with a deep, concentrated core. Yet it delivers with so much of that pinot finesse. Richly layered dark fruits provide a dense core with earthy undertones, Christmas cake and a tea-like character bring life and length (best drinking: Now to 2035).
- 97 Points, Ray Jordan, The West Australian 2022
CELLAR UP TO 2032
"Matured 11 months in French hogsheads (20% new). The cooler year has birthed yet another cabernet of delicacy, length and finesse. Matt Byrne's Redbrook Reserve cabernet is worthy of the same praise heaped upon prior vintages. Succulent red fruits and densely packed flavour held together with fine-knit tannins. Ready to drink now, but with a determined future in the cellar, too – this is what defines the wonder of great Margaret River cabernet."
- 96 Points, James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2022
CELLAR UP TO 2031
"Very deep red/purple colour, in excellent condition for its age, and a bouquet of tremendous depth and character, undeniably cabernet, mellowing and with a hint of Bonox, the palate concentrated and deep, with assertive tannins and some meaty-charcuterie and toasted-nut undertones. Masses of tannins complete the picture. A very powerful, full-bodied and emphatic cabernet that is destined for a long life. It's a bit on the astringent side right now but a hearty rare steak might take care of that. "
- 96 Points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review 2022