HOW TO ENJOY YOUR WINE AT EVERY STAGE OF CELLARING
There is no exact science in determining the perfect length of time to cellar your wines, but what is known is that a cellar-worthy wine must start out with a decent amount of fruit, acid, and tannin in order to hold up. In an ideal situation you would purchase 6-12 bottles of the same wine and sample it at various intervals. Doing this allows you to experience the wine in its many phases, gaining an understanding of the aging process and the evolution that takes place in the bottle.
In its youth, a wine will often show an upfront abundance of fruit as well as bigger and more intense tannins. This is a great time to experience the full-bodied fresh fruit that the wine has to offer and pairing it with a substantial meal will soften even the most structured tannins. In this situation, you would decant the wine to soften the tannins without losing any of the aromatics.
In approximately 4-6 years the fruit notes will soften and characteristics of oak and texture will begin to dominate. The characteristics associated with oak are most often experienced through non-fruit notes such as vanilla, chocolate, and coffee, while texture is influenced by the winemaker’s choice of aging vessels, such as stainless steel, oak or concrete.
After 10+ years you’ll start to see the tertiary notes. Here, the fruit aromas become those of more dried and cooked fruits and the savory notes begin to reveal themselves as hints of earth, forest floor, and mushroom. The wine is a bit more delicate at this stage and the aromas are quicker to fade but the complexity is amazing and the wine will be beautiful on its own or with food. Decanting comes back into play but for a very different reason than when used with a young wine. Here, the decanter will capture the tannins that have bonded and dropped to the punt of your wine bottle during its cellaring.
Throughout this process you will learn so much about each wine and about your own palate preference, which is ever-evolving. Every wine will reveal itself differently, which is just one reason wine is so interesting.
Enjoy the journey…cheers!
- Shelly Fitzgerald, Wine Education Specialist, CS, CSW, AWE, WSET Level 3