By Dan Berger
There is an old saying in the wine business that almost all wine is consumed within 24 hours of its purchase, preferably not on the way home from the store!
And yet aging of red wines, in particular, and even a few white wines that are carefully chosen, can be a rewarding experience for those who have developed a palate that can appreciate such wines.
Not everyone can do this, of course, since older wines will often lose some of their primary fruit components, and that is one of the main attributes we enjoy in wine in the first place.
The freshness of tropical fruit that is seen in a young Riesling, the charm of the raspberry fruitiness in a young Zinfandel, and the spice and earth tones of a young, fresh Merlot are the most appealing aspects of buying and consuming wines when they are young.
Older wines do have their charm, however, which can be clearly evident when you have a great Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged for 15 years very carefully to preserve all of its nuances and charm, which can enhance grilled steaks and many other kinds of meat dishes.
When you use the admonition that the wine should be carefully stored, however, we are referring to keeping wine in wine racks, wine cabinets, and other wine holders that are specifically designed to allow for that careful aging.
The key reason is to make certain that the cork remains moist from contact with the wine so it does not lose its elasticity and remains a rigid seal to keep the wine away from oxygen.
Leaving a wine bottle upright runs the risk of the cork shrinking and air allowed to ruin the delegate nuances of the liquid.
A wine cabinet can be a great benefit to an older red wine collection as long as that cabinet also has sufficient humidity because low-humid conditions can also dry out corks.
Wall wine racks may also seem attractive, but only if the wall-mounted wine rack is placed into cool temperature conditions so the liquid does not rise and fall as the weather changes. So avoid using wall-mounted racks in a dining room.
How long a wine should remain in a wine rack depends on what kind of wine it is. Cabernet ages longer, typically, than does Pinot Noir; Petite Sirah can age even longer than many Cabernets.
But there is much variability and no formula that offers much reliability here.
If you intend to begin a wine collection, there is one rule of thumb that seems always true. No matter how large a wine cabinet you buy or build, no matter how many spaces there are in a wine rack, most people soon find out that their storage location is far too small for the number of bottles that are enticing.
When you ask a dedicated wine collector how many bottles he or she has, the usual answer is “too many.”