The best mentors are able to guide a rambunctious youth to a graceful and powerful maturity. They help to mold the unlimited potential of a student into a confident, authoritative and wizened elder. Much like guiding a youthful prodigy into a formidable adult, transitioning wine from its juvenile state to its ultimate perfection can seem like a daunting task. However, by following some basic steps, progressing a wine from a rowdy and raucous infant to a distinguished and fully developed indulgence is a task that is fairly easy to undertake for many age worthy wines.
Once the determination has been made that a wine is in need of cellaring, the first step for many soon to be wine collectors is to decide where to keep the wine during the aging process. Wine develops best in cooler areas, anywhere from 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit with a constant 55 degrees being optimal. It is important that the temperature in this area does not fluctuate often, as frequent jumps or drops in temperature can negatively impact the aging wine and lead to spoilage. Also, aging wine should not be exposed to large doses of light, as overexposure to light can lead to chemical reactions in the bottle that will negatively impact flavor. These factors tend to make homes with dark and cool basements a good option for storing wine. Another possibility is a cool closet or cupboard that will block out light. It is best to avoid rooms with a lot of windows that let in a lot of light, or garages or attics which fluctuate in temperature often.
Now that the location of the new wine cellar has been determined, the next major factor determining cellar success involves preserving the integrity of the aging wine bottles’ corks. The longer a bottle of wine sits unopened, the higher the probability that the cork will begin to dry out. This will cause the cork to shrink and start to let in too much oxygen. To prevent this, it is suggested that wines be stored laying on their side. It is also suggested that the humidity be kept slightly higher in the cellar area, however this is not necessary for most bottles of wine that are only going to age for less than 10 years. Aging wine should be left relatively undisturbed as well. It is not ideal for the bottles to be subjected to vigorous shaking or other movement as this can stir up any sediment that has settled out of the wines.
By abiding by these simple guidelines, a home wine enthusiast should be able to easily care for aging wines. Flavors and the expression of aged wine can be incredible and really change the experience from drinking a wine young. The hardest part is having the patience not to prematurely open the bottles!