There are a lot of sentimental memories we have as we grow through our lives. We laugh, we cry and learn and love, all the while being with our family and friends.
And with that comes the celebrations, birthdays, weddings, babies, loss of a loved one. All these momentous occasions are with love and of course wine!
All quality wines will improve with age (like we do). As a wine matures over the passage of time it will slowly evolve, developing greater complexity and bottle-aged characters. Complex reactions occur during the maturation process, creating new aromas and flavours as the structure of the wine gradually changes.
A number of monumental events took place in Australia in 1989. The first female premier of Victoria was elected. Fast Forward and Acropolis Now aired for the first time. Australia regains The Ashes on English soil for the first time in 40 years defeating England 4-0 in the 6 test series.
The 1980’s were also monumental year in the wine world. The Mid 80’s saw the South Australian government impose an order for vines to be removed due to an oversupply, in that time the Barry Bros took on their greatest risk and bought the Florita vineyard in the Clare Valley. 1989 saw Andrew Pirie at Pipers Brook in Tasmania bottle a Cabernet
And overseas a bit earlier in the year, the 1982 vintage in Bordeaux was the birth of the fine wine market and, to this day, the wines from this vintage still turn heads and fill the cellars of many of the world’s greatest wine collectors.
Wines from this vintage in 1982 are at a premium on the private buyer’s market and are extremely rare. Though sometimes there are treasures in the least likely of places. On our last trip to Tasmania we stopped in to one of the best restaurant’s in town. Knowing they had a private cellar and some of these were on the wine list. This particular evening was our last before we headed back to Darwin. Mike and I had taken 4 days around Tasmania including driving from Launceston to Hobart, our trip was plentiful and exciting but what this night would bring was unexpected.
On the list was a 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon, a delight, made by Dr Andrew Pirie (AM). As the excitement was building to pair with some gorgeous delights from the kitchen. Then I thought, well what if it’s vinegar? Has it been stored correctly……
Yes! It had, it was luscious and smooth with a hint of fruit driven classic Tasmanian Cabernet. Yes! It is the best wine to date that I have tasted. It left us wanting more! I have the souvenir to show for it, with mould still visible (this will be another story!)
For these great wines to have survived this long (and for them not to have turned into vinegar), careful storage has been key to their longevity. To have all elements come together in harmony so that when the cork is pulled, they titillate the palate of the lucky drinker. (and then we shared a taste with the Sommelier and Chef)
As these delectable treats march on into the fourth decade of their life, and as the constantly evolving wine market grows, there is a growing desire among wine drinkers to experience wines with bottle age. At some of the prices such wines command, there’s an ever-increasing desire to find a solution – albeit one that requires much patience – to put wine away for a rainy day in the home.
But how do you know what wines will age well? How do you store the wines that you want to drink in 10 years? And most importantly, how will you resist drinking them before they reach their peak drinking window?
To Cellar or not to Cellar
Now, it’s important to mention at this stage that the majority of wines produced today are not made to be cellared decades. For each wine has a window and to know this is to know the winemaker. Each wine in our collection all have cellaring windows displayed.
Wine is a living thing and much like humans, can go from infancy through to adolescence, middle age and like some lucky souls; a few can head on into old age gracefully. Which wines have the ability and depth to be stored is a tricky guessing game. Certain wines from certain producers and vintages have an amazing ability to rest undisturbed in the cellar for many years, and when the cork is finally drawn they beguile the senses with their incredible combination of tertiary fruit flavours, mouthfeel and structure that unravels in the glass to delight the senses.
We have made the decision of what to cellar and when to drink it out of your cellar an easy one. With a yearly notification on how your wine is going, valued and what the drinking window is.
The key to a good cellar is to have a diverse cellar. Don’t forget about whites and sparkling which some hold up exceptionally well with sometime in the cellar. Fill your cellar with wines that will be ready to drink at different stages. Whilst you are waiting patiently on your Grange or Bordeaux to come of age you will then have a choice at different stages as your momentous occasions occur.
Embrace the unknown. Rather than buying from recognised areas, look to slightly lesser-known regions. Building a cellar should be fun and doesn’t have to be expensive so get experimenting and enjoy yourself in the process. Buy 2 bottles of each wine, try one now and cellar the other to try at a later date.
Vintage year is key. Each year and each vintage your beloved favourite wine will change. As do the seasons and the sands of time. There are only a certain volume of wines produced and by Mid May each year, the stocks are low. So why not keep some of the next 4 years of vintages so you can do a vertical tasting and see how each vintage stacks up?
You’ve bought it, now it’s time to store it right!
Wines need a specific environment to ensure that they mature into the exciting and mature drop that will leave you wanting more. Hence, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration when deciding where to house your investment. Temperature, light, humidity and movement all affect how a wine ages.
Much like humans, wine is hugely affected by temperature. Too high a temperature will lead to your wine maturing quickly and can lead to ‘stewed’ and ‘cooked’ flavours. Too cold a temperature could lead to your wine freezing, thus expanding and pushing the cork out of the bottle and allowing the ultimate enemy (oxygen) to creep into the bottle and cause the wine to oxidize.
Temperature fluctuations can also be hazardous, causing the wine to expand and contract and again leading to problems with oxygen ingress. Ideally you want your wine to be maturing away in a constant temperature of between 10-15˚C. This can prove tricky, but as long as the temperature is constant, a slightly higher temperature shouldn’t have a huge effect on the wine (although it may speed up the maturation process slightly).
For long term storage (and for extra special bottles) it may be wise to consider professional storage, talk to us about our rates. If you are a member of our wine club the first three months are free.
There is much debate about the effect of humidity on maturing wine, but generally if your cellar has humidity of 50—80% your wine should survive a good period of cellaring.
Storing wines bottled under cork on their side ensures the cork is in constant contact with the wine, keeping the cork moist and ensuring it provides a tight seal against oxygen ingress. Storing wines on their side (regardless of the type of closure) is also economical on space, and once you start cellaring wine, space quickly becomes an issue. So not only is storing wine on its side advantageous for the maturation process, it ensures you can carry on adding more wine to your collection!
Strong direct light, especially UV rays from the sun, can also pose some risk to your maturing wine. UV light can have an adverse reaction on the phenolic compounds in wine and when overexposed to UV, wines can degrade and age prematurely. Normal household lights shouldn’t pose too much of a risk to the wine itself but could lead to faded labels. If you have a nice cool, dark cupboard then great but if not, try to store your wine in boxes to create a natural barrier between your bottles and the dreaded UV.
Let the cellaring commence
Now that you know the pitfalls, it’s time to start buying and storing wisely. There are a number of storage solutions that can help you along the way to building and storing your wines in an environment that will allow them to develop into something wonderful and rewarding.
If you are planning on getting serious and investing heavily, it is worthwhile in investing in professional storage. Piper Collective specialises in professional storage a charge a fee per case (as well as offering insurance) and provide temperature-controlled storage to ensure that your wines will reach their peak in optimum condition. We will also create an inventory so that you can watch your cellar grow and grow but also allow you to track what you’re buying and when you should be drinking it.
For the home, if you are looking at longer term storage a wine fridge would be a good investment. There are a number of great options on the market that control temperature and humidity and come in a vast array of shapes and sizes so allow you to cater for your own personal needs.
For the ultimate in wine storage, a dedicated wine fridge is as good as it gets. Image Eurocave Australia
Whatever decision you make for storage, buying wine to cellar is a great way to treat your taste buds and ensures that you have a readymade supply of great wines that will be on hand for you to open up a special bottle for a special occasion, for impromptu visits, for dinner parties and sometimes to simply enhance the enjoyment of a beautiful dry season Monday evening.
Ready to start your collection?
Here are some great buys and what we have left in our cellar is all that is available until the next vintage!
Stocks are low and in limited supply:
Jasper Hill Shiraz
Brokenwood 2009 ILR Reserve
John Duval The Plexus GSM