Say you are presented with a bottle of wine. If you are like most people you may wonder – “Should I pour this now, or store it for later?” If you decide to store it, the next question is always “How long?” It is time to play detective and find clues to help determine if you should pour or store. To make this judgment without tasting you will need to learn all you can about the wine’s history prior to release. If you missed Part 1 of Pour or Store, we will give you a moment to catch up. Ready? Let’s start looking for clues.
We know how important acid is to storing a wine, so we can infer that high acid varietals will store better than lower acid varietals. Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc from cool climates are known for high acid. While not meant to develop into something better, they often remain “ready to drink” for a surprising number of years. Grapes like Viognier and Gewürztraminer have lower acidity and do not age well. Nebbiolo, a red Italian grape, is known for intense tannins and acid and requires time to develop.
Varietals also present differently from different regions. A really buttery, oaky Chardonnay from a warm climate in California or Australia will probably not develop into something more pleasurable. It hangs its hat on primary (apple, lemon) and secondary (butter, oak) flavors. That is its style and the most you can hope is that it will not change. But a Premier or Grand Cru Chardonnay from Chablis (cooler and less sunny) will need 10 and 15 years of bottle age respectively.
Keep in mind that some aging can happen before wines are released. This aging occurs in wood or stainless steel and sometimes after bottling. There can be tertiary flavors/aromas upon release. These wines are ready to drink AND have aging potential. Examples include Vintage Champagnes and some Classed Growth Bordeaux. The Rioja region of Spain will label some of their wines Crianza, Riserva, and Gran Riserva. These label clues indicate a progressive amount of required wood and bottle aging prior to release. One can open a newly released bottle of Gran Riserva and experience tertiary aromas and integration without the risk of holding the bottle.
Check the vintage. Is it the current year? This wine did not require aging before release and is intended to be consumed young and fresh. It also means there will be another release next year, climate willing, so drink up. Examples include rosé wines and Vinho Verde and Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact Vinho Verde, which means “green wine” for “young wine” often, shows no vintage because you are supposed to drink it right away.
Winery websites often have valuable information about their winemaking techniques. This can help set expectations about quality and tell you how much aging occurred before release. Many wineries will also offer guidelines on how long to store their wines. Additional sources include cellar tracker and wine searcher.
Even wine that you have deemed pourable not storable requires proper storage. A short time in poor conditions can ruin your wine. We were at a restaurant and could not understand why our rosé wine wasn’t up to par. Then we noticed the bottles were stored on a mirrored shelf, with a mirrored wall behind, above light bulbs, and across from a sunny window – in New Orleans!!!
|Borrowed from San Diego Wine Storage|