Food & Drink

Council on Ageing Wine: Storage for the Enthusiastic Collector

Ageing Wine: Properly Storing & Maintaining Your Wine

But you don’t have to be fanatical about this. Nearly any space where you can lay your bottles horizontally will do. This time-honored practice keeps the corks from drying out and shrinking. If a cork shrinks, air will get inside the bottle and ruin the precious liquid through oxidation. Additionally, avoid exposing your bottles to sunlight and don’t let them get warmer than, let’s say about 70 degrees F to be on the safe side. If they feel warm to the touch: NO GOOD. So, no showy wine rack above the stove, on the mantle or facing the big picture window. NO.

A basement that stays chilly year-round provides ideal, convenient wine storage. If you don’t have one, the bottom of your coolest closet should suffice. (You didn’t need all those shoes anyway.) I strongly recommend that you don’t store your wine treasures at home long term –through more than one summer season– unless the temperature in your storage area is always stably on the cool side.

Note well: (And this is important.) Not all wines are meant for long-term cellaring. In fact, most of them aren’t. Lighter-bodied Chardonnays, Rieslings and Rose’s will unanimously show best in their youth. Low-end Bay Bridge and Quail Oak Chardonnays (from the same producers as “Two Buck Chuck”) for example, come to mind. Beringer White Zinfandel, and let’s not forget the perennial up-market fave, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. Here youthful exuberance meets captivating, delicate refinement: a nubile wine if there ever was one.

In the Red department, Beaujolais (the Louis Jadot brand is a prime example), offering brash yet elegant freshness, is noted for its ease-of-pairing with all things grilled. Beaujolais just screams from your glass: “Take me now!”

Please don’t age these wines. The blush (and fragility) of youth is what they’re all about therefore steward them too with careful storage. Keep a decent supply of these early bloomers on hand for ready enjoyment. Wait patiently as your heftier, more serious cellar dwellers mellow, complex and mature. Bring those out for special occasions, just as you would your best cigars.

But what about those $100.00, $225.00, $375.00, $450.00 (and up) wines you read about in the Wine Advocate or Spectatorthat are rated at “95” or above (“Classic”) and the notes say, “Drink from now through 2026” –should you buy them?

You probably can see your way clear to buy one. Buy a”96″ or “97” rated wine (Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, with a WS rating of “96,” sells for about $125.00, for example). Hold it for six months or a year, and drink it. If it truly stands up to its rating, it will totally blow your doors off and provide a benchmark, a yardstick by which you can evaluate any wine that you taste thereafter.

Sometimes you really get bitten by the grape and begin obsessively collecting these amazing, formidably expensive, drinkable works of art. If so, you’d better obtain nothing less than an ideal storage situation to protect your long term investment.

You will find yourself quietly taking real pride in putting together your personal selection of Reds, Whites, Rose’s, Champagnes and Dessert Wines, ageing gracefully next to your Naturals, Maduros, Candelas and Flavor-infused Hondurans, Dominicans and Nicaraguans. Yes, what a joy it is to curate your very own private collection. Any time guests come to call, you’ll already have their favorite type on hand, ready for enjoyment. And when you’re on your way to visit that special someone, you won’t have to spend time stopping at Le Shoppe puzzling over trying to select something good. You already have a well-stocked stash of delicious, table-ready selections right at your fingertips: Your pride and joy.

A votre sante’ !

P.S.: The widely distributed Georges Duboeuf brand is always one of the tastiest available.

Larry Tepper

Larry Tepper

Larry Tepper, noted wine industry professional and wine writer, is best known for conducting educational wine and food pairing classes for three universities: California State University Northridge (CSUN), UCLA and USC over a period which spans more than twenty-five years. As managing editor of the Melrose Avenue (Hollywood-based Nucleus Nuance Restaurant and Wine News, his " "Celebrity Wine Interview" " column appeared regularly. Larry also produced and hosted more than 60 segments of " "Let's Talk Wine" " featured on Continental Cablevision.

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