Most eyes should see the picture to the right as brick red with browning edges eventually heading to red brown! (See explanation below) Other Rules of WineAging
This is one of the more complicated topics of wine but I will make some summary judgments for you. These are the most general of rules.
When I say you can keep 5 years, for example, I am using the vintage date as a starting point. And when I say you can keep it more time, that assumes proper storage at 52-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If the wine costs less than $12.00 a bottle, it was meant to be drunk that night.
- If it costs between $12.00 and $20.00 a bottle, you can drink it that night or keep it (52 to 55 degrees F) for up to 5 years to 10 years additional depending on the grape used.
- If it costs between $20.00 to $30.00 and is white, you can drink it that night or keep it (52 to 55 degrees F) for up to 5 years. If red, you can drink that night or for 10 to 15 additional years.
- If it costs over $30.00 a bottle and is white, you can drink it that night or keep it for minimally an additional 10 years. If red, you can drink that night or for minimally an additional 15 years.
An additional note is that wine corks generally deteriorate from 25 years and older so beware of buying a wine with that much age from a store.
I go into further detail in my blog post, Is Your Wine Aging or Aged?
Armed with these little bits of knowledge, you can enter a store with much more confidence.Travel
Wine reacts to travel, whether that be travelling home from the store or travelling from another country on a container ship. Some general rules are that reds react more that whites and the older the wine, the greater need for rest. Say you just bought a 20 year old red at a store. Two questions have to enter in you mind. Where has it been for those 20 years before you thought of buying it (in temperature controlled storage for most of those 20 years or on the retail shelf at room temperature)? Second, if I do decide to buy it, in taking it home, will it be sufficiently agitated from the shopping cart rumbling across the parking lot and then in the car to not need repose?
There is a simple rule to follow: the more you spend on a wine, the more questions to ask yourself and the retailer or outlet where you are buying the wine. There is little worse than buying a very good wine and spending a lot of money only to discover you should have spent more time asking questions before you got home and discovered it is not in great shape. Worse yet is to discover the problems on opening the wine after many years of saving it. I remember my eldest daughter was born in Talence, France. I bought a bottle of one of the local, but expensive wines, Chateau Haut-Brion in the United States the year her birth, 1984, when the first shipments arrived in America. Both my daughters were born in supposedly bad years for Bordeaux, 1984 and 1987. Anyway, I knew that First Growth levels of wine still put out a good wine, just less of it, in off years and I gave it good storage. Fast forward to 2012 when we had a dinner to celebrate her engagement. I opened the bottle and wouldn't you know that was one of the best bottles I have consumed in my life and it could still take some age!
That is one reason why wine for tonight's consumption, generally, you would do well to buy it young. We use a term in the wine business called bottle sickness which describes this condition that lasts up to a month from bottling. There is the anecdote from Burgundy in France that a very old bottle should be moved from the cellar a step per day? (Preplan your dinners according to how many steps the cellar has)! A variation is when you agitate it too much. It is like seasickness in humans. There is nothing wrong with the wine. It just needs to rest up from its travels.Corks
You can tell how long the winemaker things the wine will last by the cork used. The shorter the cork, the shorter the life expectancy of the wine. Beaujolais or a fighting varietal for ten bucks a bottle? Short cork. Fine Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or fine Bordeaux? Long cork.
Store the bottle on its side to keep the cork moist so that it maintains a good seal. Under $15 a bottle, some wineries are using other methods of sealing like screw caps and artificial cork. The results so far seem positive but you notice under $15 a bottle wines are not meant to be kept a long time. The jury is still out on the over $15 a bottle. See me again in 30 years when we have accumulated experience of the effect of storing wine by this method.
The other night I went to a wine tasting and pointed out that one wine was corked. Roughly 4% of wines from California have this issue to various degrees (similar problems exists wine from outside California). I knew what the problem was and insisted they open a second bottle of the same wine which everyone liked! Classic corked wines have a stinky, musty smell of old gym socks. There are varying degrees of "corkiness". If you suspect the wine is corked, stop right there and don't continue to drink the wine. If you only have drunk a small amount, take the wine back to the store for a new bottle. It is hard to go back (or ballsy), if you have drunk the bottle down.Storage
Constant 52-55 degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity is optimum. The warmer or to a lesser extent the colder the wine gets, the shorter the lifespan. Never, for example, keep it for six months above 75 degrees, stored upright, drying out the cork. All three factors are bad for the wine. You are really taking a chance and the more expensive the wine, unfortunately the more likely the damage.
Avoid sunlight in storing wine.
Don't buy wine that has spent a long time in a store which turns the air conditioning off at night. The worst thing for wine is a constant fluctuation in temperature. If you buy it from a store with wine racks, at least take a bottle from the bottom of a rack, closer to the floor where it is cooler.
Wine is subject to all the laws of physics so that the warmer to temperature, the more it is affected by temperature -- any chemical reaction increases with heat.
If you are in the Sarasota area, a modern facility in every way for storing wine at a reasonable price has opened up that is run by super nice people off of Fruitville Road called Cellar Fifty -Five
. Check it out!If you live in an area with basements or cellars
, you have some options which are not as expensive as building a full fledged wine cellar. If the walls and floor are exposed concrete or stone, 8 feet below the ground you will notice the temperature should be 45 -55 degrees, not allowing for heat produced by pipes, your central heating system etc. If you protect that area from the aforementioned heat sources, you will find it is the correct temperature for storing wine. Find a corner where two sides are exposed concrete walls and also you will have the concrete floor giving off coolness. Lay cement blocks (you don't even have to mortar them) to construct the 3rd and 4th walls of your little space. All that you will need then is a top cover (you can use anything which has insulating value like Styrofoam) and there you have it. Make the space appropriate to the number of bottles in your wine collection. If you have more than a few dozen good bottles, you have to do a little more than I suggest but this gives you a beginning idea. The principle is you want to conserve the natural cold of the cellar. If possible, you want to spend your money on wine, not wine storage.Color
The color of a wine is generally an indication of how "fresh" it is in the bottle. It is a sign of how advanced in the aging process it is (oxidized) and you can usually tell if the wine is gone without tasting it. The following is the color change a wine undergoes over time. This chart is produced without examples of the color because I cannot be sure of the veracity with which it will rendered by your browser. Sorry. Reds from purple to brown
Brick red (this is the danger point for reds
Brown Whites from Pale yellow green to Brown
Pale yellow green