I am asked all the time about how long to store wine. When to cellar wine and when to drink red wine and when to drink white wine can be tricky. Truthfully, I think about that every time I put something in my cellar.
I have a little system worked out that I would love to share with you.
But first, there is some good news and some bad news that comes with this.
The good news is that you are probably way overthinking how to store wine.
There are just a couple of rules that will make storing and drinking from your collection so much more rewarding.
The bad news, though, is that you may have to let go of some of your dreams.
That seems so sad, doesn’t it? Everyone wants to drink that incredible bottle. The one that has been stored perfectly, is aged just long enough and blows your mind when you open it. You know, that holy shi** moment when you can’t believe something could taste that amazing. I drank one of those in 2001.
Yes, you read that right. 17 years ago. Now, I have had a lot of really, really excellent bottles of wine since then. Drinking wine you really love should be something that you experience often.
But the wines that dreams are made of…. well they can sometimes just be that: dreams. But, I know that you can get to a place where you are really happy with what and when you are pulling wines from your collection.
1. The secret is to remember that wine is an experience.
It’s all about where you are, who you are with, what you are eating. All those things shape how we feel about a wine. Those moments can be everyday kinds of things. Often, it’s a glass of rose’ at the end of the day, sitting on the patio with a good book. Or an impromptu dinner with my husband, Dean, and a few friends. The best moments I have had with wine have rarely occurred with a very expensive wine or a Michelin star restaurant. Not to knock either of those, because good is good. But I can’t as easily tell you what I drank with those experiences as I can remember the whole evening.
2. Know what to drink and what to hold.
The majority of wines should be drunk young. Don’t save white wines and rose’. Buy them, drink them, move on. I’m serious. Don’t miss the moment! What you love about these wines is their freshness, the fruit and zesty qualities that come from being young. Holding these wines won’t improve them, it will take away the reason you loved them in the first place.
There are only a few exceptions to this rule above. Riesling is the best example. It will last forever and you will love it in all it’s forms. One of the trademarks of this wine is acidity. The great preserver of wine.
If you are looking for a wine to enjoy now and also cellar, Riesling is perfect. I like to hold mine and build verticals out of them for later down the road.
Red wines are a little different because they have both acidity and tannin.
Insider tip: the two things that preserve wine are acid (think lemon juice) and tannin (that super drying experience in your mouth that you also get from drinking really strong black tea)
Tannin comes from the skins of the grapes. During the process of red wine making the juice/wine is in constant contact with the skin of the grape. For that reason, the wine picks up plenty of tannins. As a side note, barrels add some too.
Red wines tend to age better than whites because of that factor. Okay, so I will admit. I am oversimplifying because this all gets so technical. When you cellar wine that you have tasted before or know because of the type of wine it is, just ask yourself about acid and tannin. If it has a lot of acid like Riesling (White Burgundy is a good one too) then you can hold onto it. For reds, if they have a ton of tannin, hold them too.
3. Let’s make it easy.
I have attached a cheat sheet for you that gives you my favorite window for drinking our wines. It will serve you well when you buy Nefarious and with most wines that you buy that are made in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. I asked you earlier to not overthink this, so I don’t want to weigh you down with too many details. Just know that you can add 2-5 years storage time to the cheat sheet for Old World Wines (French, Spanish, and especially Italian).
4. The thing I really want you to remember.
This is the system I mentioned above. It’s so easy.
- Drink white wine and rose’ now.
- If you love a wine the way it is when you buy it, drink it.
- Most red wines cellar really well for 5-7 years from the date on the bottle (vintage)
- If you want to hold a wine longer than that, choose something that has more structure (tannin or acid, likely both). Good choices are most Italian reds, Bordeaux, Washington Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.
Do you feel more confident about when to drink your wine collection now?