3 Golden Rules for Cellaring Wines

Is there a benefit in using a wine aerator to decant wine quickly? or should I be patient and decant properly over a few hours? Do all wines benefit from decanting?

 Aerators and decanters do slightly different things. An aerator doesn’t decant. Decanting is about separating any sediment from usually older wine. While decanters do aerate with time, it isn’t just about exposing wine to oxygen; what happens mostly is evaporation of chemical elements. For example, a shiraz might be reductive (made without exposure to oxygen) and when immediately poured, it can appear a bit stinky, but those sulphur-based compounds tend to evaporate quickly. Without sounding too pedantic, more accurately, the question should ask whether all wines benefit from aeration. This depends on the wine. Don’t bother with young fresh whites, but consider a chardonnay with a few years’ bottle age, and especially robust, tannic reds. Aerators are fiddly to use and clean, but you can buy an all-in-one decanter/aerator, such as the sleek Danish designed Wine Breather that many people swear by.

 I’d like some tips please on how to start a cellar. I usually drink young or current vintages, but recently tasted an older Cabernet Sauvignon that got me thinking about cellaring.

 Two golden rules: buy varieties or styles you love to drink, and proper wine storage is essential – the warm kitchen cupboard doesn’t cut it. There probably a third rule that comes from experience, and that’s don’t buy too much. While some varieties lend themselves to ageing – cabernet sauvignon, and Riesling, for example – if they are not what you adore, don’t get them. As for the second rule, it's called a cellar for a reason. While the temptation is to buy wine and think about storage later, get the latter first. I’m assuming you’re not about to redesign your house to accommodate a fancy underground wine mausoleum, and the fine wine market is not on your radar. So start conservatively. Aim for a manageable 150 to 200 wines, perhaps go with your five favourite varieties and buy six of the same vintage and producer. Producer is paramount. If space is tight, consider a wine fridge. There are many reputable brands that are priced accordingly, but there are also plenty of off-site cellar options. They are great for orderly storage of case lots, as well as providing a good place for more expensive bottles, thwarting the temptation to raid them at 1am during a dinner party. A few other tips, taste wine on release and especially as they age because that is the gratifying part. Keep your stack orderly. Do your homework, keep lots of records, but don’t bore your friends. Read, talk, taste, share and enjoy the journey. There’s much more, but this is just the beginning. Good luck !

 Do wines under cork age better than those under screwcap?

 No argy-bargy with my personal response please, but for me, it’s a firm no.

Some will vehemently disagree with me, but may still add that whites are okay under screwcap – the idea being they don’t require as much time for ageing (but ask any Hunter Valley Semillon producer why they went to screwcap). Such folk are, however, resolute that reds under cork are superior for longevity. The thing is, when it comes to the world’s greatest wines – they are all  under cork. So it stands to reason some of the finest tasting experiences will be from bark-sealed wines. The reason I say no is due to cork’s infuriating variability, including permeability. The amount of times I’ve bought out an older bottle only to have the cork evaporate on me!  Many of my screwcap wines are easing into their second decade and brilliantly so. Foolproof? No. But I no longer feel cork is the best. It has saved me time, expense and heartache. Oh, and the reds are ageing very nicely thank you !

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