One of the most interesting parts of cellaring or storing wine is working out when you should drink it.
This is a tricky question to figure out as there are so many variables at play. The variety, the vineyard, the vintage, winemaker influence right down to the type of closure. But there’s more, how do you like to drink your wines? Champagne is fondly cellared in the UK, historically the biggest market for France’s famed bubbles. The wines develop a lovely brioche, buttery note that’s unique to aged Champagne. However ask a Frenchman about this, and they’re the opposite, a Champagne should be enjoyed fresh, and regularly. So Cultural and personal preferences also come into play.
The trend that many wines follow today are a more approachable style, juicy and gluggable that can be enjoyed now rather than needing time to age and become drinkable. Indeed with winemaking now at such a technical level, wines are generally produced ready to drink, which makes sense as most wines are consumed within a week of purchase.
Another trend that follows the more approachable style trend is that of the disappearance of tannin. More and more wines spend less time on skins during the winemaking process (talking red wines here, and excluding the skin contact whites). This generally gives less tannins, which can make wines easier to drink early. However tannin is a natural antioxidant, and it is this in conjunction with acid and colour pigments that drop out of solution during aging to give a ‘smoother’ drinking experience, and adds to the secondary aged wine character. So technically speaking wines with less tannin require less aging.
Then there’s the biggest question of all when it comes the question, “should I open this special bottle?” The occasion! Big birthday’s, anniversaries, weddings, divorces and celebrations of all sorts are the real driver of “When” you should enjoy a super nice bottle. However as someone with a few ‘special’ bottles its tricky to believe now’s the right time for my 1987 Barolo, or HOG. Be careful, its too easy to think now is never the right time and you miss the perfect moment to enjoy the wine. Keep tracking of your wines and vintages and keep drinking, better to enjoy slightly young than when old and tired.