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WINE

A Ripe Old Age?
updated: Aug 27, 2011, 10:53 AM

By Eric Garnier

The other night, my wife and I opened a 1997 bottle of wine that we purchased at a great winery in Napa Valley several years ago, expecting an incredible experience. Much to our surprise, it did not meet up to our expectations, especially since we had tasted the wine before we purchased it.

This all leads to two issues that need discussion. First, how long should you keep a wine before you drink it Second, how should wines be stored to maximize the aging.

We have a rule in our house that we should not store red wines longer than ten years passed their vintage date on the label. Why?. Most New World wines are meant to be consumed young, and not meant for extended aging. Though this is not true for all wines, a good to very good wine can still benefit with some additional aging. The best wineries don't even release their wines until they are aged a little longer at the wineries.

With age,the tannins in the wine tend to dissipate or soften, making the wine seem more velvety. This in turn makes the fruit concentration come forward. All wines reach a certain maturity. At this point the wine is as good as it gets! After that the wine starts to deteriorate,losing it's maximum potential. It is hard or almost impossible to say when a wine is at it's peak, so that is why we have the ten year rule in our house. And, yes there are great wines that can last 10,20 or 30 years, but those are exceptions.

This now brings up the subject of how to properly store your wine for maximum aging potential. What we don't have in Ventura, or anywhere close is an off-site wine storage facility where you can store your wines in a climate controlled warehouse somewhere away from your home. Anyway, these places charge a fee and tend to be impersonal. These places also take away the spontaneity of grabbing a wine when you want it. So, most of us have two choices. The best choice is to buy a wine cooler. These are readily available and can hold anywhere from 24 to hundreds of bottles. The larger units (100 bottles or more) are best suited because they control the temperature and the humidity which are the two worst enemies of wine storage. Drastic changes in these greatly effect the aging of wines and can ruin the wines quickly.

If this is not an option, then I recommend converting a closet in the middle of the house. Be sure it is not near a heater or water heater. Keep the bottles laying down so the corks stay moist. Though this is not the ideal way to store your prized possessions, at least you will be able to age your wines for a short period before drinking them

Questions or comments? Email: wineoeric@gmail.com

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