Cellaring wine — it’s a living thing

This article originally ran in the Yakima Herald Republic, May 2, 2019.

It’s inevitable, when talking wine with a wine lover, that the topic of “cellaring or aging wine” comes up.

Cellaring a wine means that you put it in a cool, dark place for any specific amount of time to allow it to improve as it sits in the bottle.

Wines are cellared for a variety of reasons. To simply let it mature and get better with age, re-experience a year that was special in our memory, the year of a birth of a child, or an anniversary.

Cellaring wine became a topic of discussion during seated tastings this past weekend at Yakima Valley Winemaker’s Table, a new event allowing guests the opportunity to taste three or four vintages of the same wine and discuss the changes with the winemaker.

Wine is a living thing, changing with time in the bottle. If you have any doubts about this, open a young bottle of wine along with the same wine from a previous vintage, and you can easily see, smell and taste the difference, as Winemaker’s Table guests did this past weekend.

Most wines produced today are meant to be drunk now and won’t cellar well. If you are planning to cellar wine, make sure you understand how to identify a wine that will age well, how long to hold it and how to properly store the wine.

Wines made for immediate consumption are delicate, soft and smooth. Conversely, wines meant for aging may seem harsh and acidic, a characteristic that allows the wine to age.

Wines high in acid and tannins, when cellared properly, can develop into amazing wines. Once the tannins are allowed to soften, the fruit develops and the acidity comes into balance making an excellent wine to enjoy. There is a window, though; wines don’t hold forever and will eventually begin to deteriorate.

When tasting, ask about these key components to learn if a wine will age well:

Acidity: As wine ages, the acidity will fade. A wine with a higher acid level and lower pH will have better aging potential.

Alcohol: The best wines for aging will be 13.5 to 14 percent ABV.

Tannins: Firm tannins in the wine is important. Tannins are a structural component of a wine which allows the wine to change over time.

If you are purchasing wine with the expectation of putting it in the cellar, buy at least six bottles. Taste one bottle periodically to learn how the wine is evolving and to develop a sense of how the wine will age.

The following wines were identified during the Winemaker’s Table as wines that have the characteristics of aging for future enjoyment. Not all of these wines are available for purchase yet. Stop by any of the following wineries and taste the current vintage and put your name on the list to be one of the first to get the future vintage of these outstanding wines.

Gilbert Cellars 2014 Reserve No. 2

Co Dinn Cellars 2017 Elephant Mountain Red Wine

Yakima Valley Vintners 2016 Primitivo

Côte Bonneville Winery 2018 Syrah

Wit Cellars 2016 Cab Franc.

The key to aging and cellaring wine is temperature control and humidity, along with a lack of light and vibration. Regardless of the type of wine and the size of your cellar, those four points are your sole concern. A wine with the ability to age and evolve into something greater than its youth is not easy to find, and is typically more expensive.

But, think of the enjoyment of opening a bottle of wine you put in the cellar the year a loved one was born, then enjoying it with them on their 21st birthday.

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