Wednesday Wine 101: Aging Your Wine

Though most of the wines made from our kits are drinkable right at bottling, many – like most things in life – only improve with age.  Today we’re sharing everything you need to know to age your wine to perfection, so that you can enjoy every bottle at its finest.

cellar

Why age wine?

If you’ve ever tasted a wine with an astringent taste, or felt the sharp mouth-feel of harsh tannins, you’ve likely tasted a wine that was not yet at its peak age.  Newly bottled wine still has some settling to do before it reaches its optimal state – especially if it is very tannic or rich – because of compounds suspended in the wine itself.  Over time, chemical reactions from the fermentation process that continue after bottling work to bind together these compounds to the point where they sink to the bottom of the bottle as sediment.  When this happens, the wine becomes noticeably less tannic (and often lighter in colour) resulting in a much smoother, softer taste and mouth-feel.  You may even begin to notice new aromas and flavours that would have been overwhelmed by the presence of strong tannins had the wine been consumed at a younger age.  As the wine ages, the bouquet of aromas will likely also become deeper, more layered and more complex, with a longer-lingering finish – all sought-after traits of the best-quality wines.

Should all wines be aged?

Not all wines require significant ageing – the length of time required usually depends on the richness of the wine, the alcohol content, the ratio of sugar to water, etc.  Generally, white wines require less ageing than red, and light- and medium-bodied wines (such as those produced by our Wine Art and Traditional kits) require less ageing than richer, fuller-bodied wines (such as those produced by our Sommelier Reserve kits).  Our light-bodied Country Mist fruit wines, for example, require just about no ageing at all – they are at their peak drinking age between 1-6 months after bottling!

Guidelines

As a general guideline, wine should be aged in an environment that is consistent, cool, and dark (12-18 degrees Celsius / 54-65 degrees F), with a humidity level between 50-70%.  Basements are usually ideal for this.

Wine expert Jancis Robinson is even more precise; she recommends the following storage temperatures, depending on the type of wine in question:

  • big and tannic red wines: 15-18 degrees Celsius
    (warmer temperatures tame the tannins)
  • complex and dry white wines: 12-16 degrees Celsius
    (the warmth releases more aromas)
  • softer, lighter red wines: 10-12 degrees Celsius
  • sparkling wines: 6-10 degrees Celsius
  • light white, rosé and fruit wines: 6-10 degrees Celsius

That having been said, there’s no need to renovate your basement to create a separate wine cellar for each of your batches – the key is to remember:

  • keep it cool (optimally, around 12-13 degrees Celsius)
  • keep it dark (just like with skin, sunlight causes premature ageing of wine)
  • keep it still (vibrations and movement prevent sediment from settling), and, after the first month or so after bottling
  • keep it sideways (this prevents the cork from drying out and thus protects the wine from oxidization).

How long should I age my wine?

While peak age varies from batch to batch and bottle to bottle, the following is a rough guide to optimal ageing times for wines produced from our kits.

  • Sommelier Reserve, Ultimate Estate Reserve – red
    peak ageing period: 9 – 24 months
    shelf life after bottling: 3 – 4 years (3-5 years for Sommelier Reserve)
  • Sommelier Reserve, Ultimate Estate Reserve – white, blush
    peak ageing period: 6 – 18 months
    shelf life after bottling: 2 – 3 years
  • Traditional Vintage – red
    peak ageing period: 6-8 months
    shelf life after bottling: 2-3 years
  • Traditional Vintage – white, blush
    peak ageing period: 6-12 months
    shelf life after bottling: 1½ – 2 years
  • Wine Art – red
    peak ageing period: 3-12 months
    shelf life after bottling: 1½ years
  • Wine Art – white, blush
    peak ageing period: 3 – 9 months
    shelf life after bottling: 1½ years
  • Country Mist fruit wines
    peak ageing period: 1-6 months
    shelf life after bottling: 1 year

Extra credit

If you’re interested in reading more of what the experts have to say on the subject of wine ageing, the following links will provide more food for thought.  Keep in mind that these guides refer to commercial wines, which typically contain more preservatives than the ones you produce with Wine Kitz, so the information does not necessarily apply equally to home vintages.

Unearthing the Secrets of Age” (Decanter)
Which Wines are Worth Ageing” (Jancis Robinson)
Four Traits of Wines that Age Well” (Wine Folly)

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