December 18, 2015 | Education, Kuhlman Cellars Wine |
Better With Age?
The holidays are a time when giving and receiving can result in a nice stash of wine accumulating in your cellar. If hosting a holiday party, chances are a guest will bring a bottle of wine or Champagne as a thank you gift. Santa may deliver an intriguing bottle of your favorite varietal with a note to not open until Christmas… five years later. Rather than let your yuletide bounty of bottles sit on the kitchen counter, here are some tips for storing the gift of wine all year long.
Only 1% of the world’s wines are meant for “long term” storage. The other 99% is meant for consumption between immediate and up to 10 years. During that time, the way a wine is stored can help preserve the integrity of the product and encourage the long-term chemical reactions happening inside improving it with age.
Wines biggest ‘frenemy’ is Oxygen. Oxygen allows wine to ‘open’ when uncorked, allowing a wide range of aromatics and flavors to emerge. Prematurely introducing oxygen for long spans of time degrades and ‘spoils’ the wine. Wines with a high level of natural acidity help slow the oxidation process. . When you cut open an apple, the flesh begins to brown very quickly due to oxidation. Wine undergoes a similar ‘browning’. High natural acidity in wine helps slow the oxidation process much like lemon juice stops oxidation in fruit.
Tannin levels also help prevent oxidation. Tannins act like a “shock absorber” to process oxygen in a way that allows other chemical complexities to not bear the full brunt of exposure. Tannins are primarily gained from extended contact with the seeds of the grape and barrel aging. Storing wine properly allows tannin chains to be “used up” or broken, giving aged wine a softer, more nuanced body. White wines do not have the same exposure to the seeds and barrel age resulting in low tannins and a generally a poor candidate for long term storage. Try to consume white wines within three years of the date on the bottle for best results.
Every collector dreams of stepping into a stone-walled underground cellar lined with cedar racks nestling bottles like sleeping baby bats in a cave. Sadly, this romantic version of the perfect cellar is simply not reality for everyday urban living. A functional, practical cellar for storing wine can be incorporated into any home. These four simple rules will help save your wines from spoilage:
Find a cool place: Ideally wines should be cellared at 65 degrees. But here in Texas, following the rule of not exceeding 75 degrees is more practical. Find a spot that provides a stable temperature level and avoid wild heating and cooling fluctuations. Wines stored in excess of 80 degrees can ‘bake’ in the bottle causing heat damage.
Find a dark place: UV light rays are damaging to wine. Find a shaded space away from direct sunlight. Green or brown or bottles act as a UV filter, but prolonged UV exposure will harm the liquid in the bottle.
Bad Vibes: There are tens of thousands of complex chemical reactions happening in a single bottle of wine. Vibrations can speed up or deter these reactions from happening. Keep your wine collection away from heavy machinery like washers and driers, climate control systems and vehicles.
Going Sideways: Bottles should be stored on their side to maintain contact between the liquid and natural cork. Because cork is porous, it can contract when dry and allow unwanted oxygen into the bottle. For this same reason, don’t allow corks to dry out. Keep your wine in a place where fresh, humid air can maintain the natural sponginess of cork.
Navigating the Wine Aisle
One item not on the label of a bottle is how long it should be stored for. Price point can be an indicator of how long a wine can sit before consumption. The majority of wines that price under $30 are meant to be drunk within 1-5 years after the vintage date. Wines between $30 to $100 are meant to age for 5-10 years of the vintage date, though there are many exceptions. The quality of the bottle and cork can offer subtle insight as to whether the winemaker chose to invest in the longevity of the juice.
Keep in mind that long term aging is not a benchmark for quality. Many highly praised wines are not meant to age past 10-20 years; the chemical composition simply does not hold up over time. The lack of prolonged cellaring possibilities does not impact the quality of a wine consumed within its proper stored lifetime.
National magazines and wine websites often note wines with the potential for long-term storage. When looking for a wine gift (or a gift for yourself) with delayed gratification in mind, consult these resources so you can buy now and enjoy later. If you are looking to shop for local this holiday season consult The Texas Wine Journal for guidance with Texas grown and produced wines. The Journal offers ratings and descriptions compiled from a panel of professional sommeliers after tasting the wines blindly by category. You can find more information about the journal at TexasWineJournal.org. Happy Holidays and safe imbibing!
Kuhlman Wines that are expected to age:
2012 Merlot: expected to show improvement for 5+ years, assess the progress in 2017
2012 Texas Red: expected show improvement for 5+ years, assess the progress in 2017
2012 Barranca: expected to age gracefully from 5-10 years
2012 KanKar: expected to age gracefully from 5-10 years
@ Dec 21, 2015 at 9:16 PM
Good article, Jennifer. I've been more of a classic Napa/Sonoma collector, but have been learning about the Texas wines for 3+years (moved to Austin area). Most of my wines, I try to cellar for 5+ years, and need to learn more about which Hill Country wines can age longer. BIG fan of Kuhlman Cellars (Jeremy Wilson). I'm always trying to find "Reserve" wines on 290 that I can cellar for longer. I have Napa and Sonoma wines over 30 years old. Any suggestions?