Cellaring wines is not something a lot of Australians do. In fact an overwhelming majority of wine purchased here in Australia is drunk within twenty-four hours of purchase. Cellaring wines can be a very rewarding experience and journey, and it certainly isn’t just a hobby reserved for the rich and famous! Here’s a few of my top tips for starting your cellar:
1. Store it
Store your wines correctly from the get go. There are a number of options for cellaring but there are a few things you need to consider. Wine needs to be kept away from light, heat and vibration. So while that dark cupboard next to the hot water cylinder may look like the ideal dark hideaway, you need to be aware that exposure to these things can be a recipe for vinous disaster. The temperature needs to be as consistent as is possible. You should be looking at a temperature of no more than 18 degrees Celsius. Remember when storing your wines, you are essentially creating an environment to protect your investment. If you don’t have a suitable dark area, there are other solutions. Look into some great temperature controlled wine fridges like Vintec, or even specialist off site wine storage. Wines with cork should always be kept lying down on their side to keep the cork moist.
2. Know your budget
Have a budget in mind and stick to it! Like all things, it can be easy to get carried away with the excitement that wine purchasing can bring (trust me I know!) so be budget conscious. Also keep in mind that a cellar is a constantly evolving thing so set some money aside for future purchases.
3. Not all wine should be cellared
Not all wine is designed to cellar or be kept for long periods of time. Do you research on what you are about to purchase. If you spend up large on a cellar of Marlborough sauvignon blanc or Italian pinot grigio, you are going to be disappointed a year or two down the track. For beginners, I recommend varieties with aging potential such as cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, riesling, semillon, chardonnay, nebbiolo, vintage port and fortifieds. Remember too there is no exact science behind cellaring but most wineries or good wine shops should be able to provide you with some good cellaring guidelines for your wines. I write them on the bottles with a paint pen at home for easy reference.
For goodness sake, don’t forget to drink them! Wine is supposed to be drunk, but unfortunately some people – and I see this all the time – hold onto wines for decades, and often it’s too late by the time they get around to it. I always buy six bottles of the same wine and spread out their drinking over a few years. But I always keep two or three bottles for a decade away. One of the joys of cellaring is watching the evolution and journey of a wine over time. I always err on the side of youth when choosing when to drink my wines.
5. Keep up to date
Get on the mailing list of your favourite wineries. You will have better access to new releases, museum release wines and, in the case of such famous wineries as Wendouree, you have to be on the mailing list to order at all!
6. Know your vintage
Be vintage savvy! Look for wines from good vintages not the extreme ones.
7. Go large
Magnums and other large bottles age differently, are a great addition to any cellar, and perfect at special occasions. I always ask at cellar doors whether they have magnums available if I really love the wine.
Some Aussie classics to get you started:
Andrew Thomas ‘Braemore’ Semillon 2015, Hunter Valley, New South Wales – Semillon from the Hunter has such an incredible propensity to age, and its evolution in the bottle in so unique. Here’s one of the top drops from the Hunter, starting its life as a crunchy, crisp wine of incredible purity and drive and evolving into a sumptuous wine with flavours of wild honey, citrus curd and beautiful florals and stunning length and complexity. $30 online at thomaswines.com.au
Giaconda Chardonnay 2013, Beechworth, Victoria – A truly incredible example of stunning Australian Chardonnay, you have to be on the ball to get these wines as they are snapped up very quickly upon release! Stunning to enjoy now but will drink beautifully for another decade. $110 online at giaconda.com.au (they also do an en primeur release each year so keep an eye out for that)
Henschke Mount Edelstone 2012 Shiraz, Eden Valley – The pedigree and quality of wines that come out of the Henschke stable are truly staggering. They offer quality that is second to none, and of course wonderful drinkability. This Shiraz comes from old vines that are over 100 years old and will happily sleep in the cellar for over 20 years. $130 online at henschke.com.au
Yarra Yering Dry Red No 1, Yarra Valley, Victoria – I fell in love with Yarra Yering on my first trip to the Yarra Valley and under the guidance of winemaker Sarah Crowe the wines are looking better than ever. The Dry Red No 1 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot. I recently opened a magnum of 2001 that was absolutely singing. $92 online at yarrayering.com
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2014, Clare Valley, South Australia – An icon in the world of Riesling that always pleases and has great ageing potential. One of the great things about this wine is that it’s a pleasure to enjoy right now and in the future, cellar for up to 15 years. $47.99 at shortysliquor.com.au