Before you start preparing your wine for ageing, you should research whether the wines you have chosen are suitable for ageing. Only a very small percentage of wines in 2022 are suitable for ageing, and the vast majority of them are full-bodied red wines with lots of tannins. Most wines aren’t suitable for ageing. Although you can store most wines in optimal conditions for years, the nuanced flavours and aromas won’t improve with age - they’ll simply remain the same.
If you plan on ageing wines, then the general rule of thumb is to go for wines with lots of tannins and high levels of acidity. Some red wines that may be suitable for ageing include Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Vintage Port, and Sangiovese. It can be a lot more difficult to find white wines that are suitable for ageing. However, the following white wines are generally more suitable for ageing than others - Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and dessert wines such as Barsac.
Once you’ve decided which wines you’re going to let mature, you need to consider how you’re going to store your wine. When storing your wine for ageing, you need to consider the storage factors more than ever. One of the main storage factors that can affect how well your wine ages is temperature. Although different wines will have different storage temperatures for serving or in the short-term, there is a universal recommended temperature for storing wines in the long term, which is between 11 and 14°C. You should also ensure that the temperature remains consistent throughout the ageing process - any fluctuations can affect the flavours and aromas of your wine.
Another storage factor that you should consider when storing your wine collection in the long term - especially for ageing - is humidity. Many wine collectors will overlook the importance of humidity in wine storage, but the fact is that it’s just as important as maintaining the correct temperature. Humidity in wine storage is necessary as it keeps the cork moist, which keeps the cork in place and prevents your wine from being exposed to oxygen and going stale and ‘off. It can take years until your wine has fully matured, and your effort can be ruined in a matter of hours if your wine gets exposed to oxygen. However, be careful to avoid ageing your wine in a space with too much humidity. Too much humidity can cause moisture to accumulate around your bottle, destroying the labels and promoting mould growth. If you’re ageing your wine, you want your labels to remain in top condition - so humidity is key.
You should also protect your wine collection from sunlight. Sunlight, or more specifically, UV light, can affect how well your red wine tastes, smells, looks, and ages. UV light speeds up the ageing process, causing irreversible chemical reactions within the body of the wine. Be sure to store your wine in a dark space and out of sunlight. Be mindful of which lights you use too - LED lights are usually the best lights to use in your wine storage space as they don’t have much heat output. Another thing to consider when storing your wine for ageing is the position of the bottles. The best way to store your wine bottles is horizontal - this ensures that the cork remains in contact with the wine, preventing it from drying out and exposing your wine from oxygen. However, if you have a screwcap bottle, you should be fine storing it horizontally or vertically as there is no cork to worry about.
If you plan on ageing bottles of wine, then the best storage space to do so is in a wine cabinet. Wine cabinets provide optimal storage conditions for ageing red wine - they protect your wine from sunlight, maintain the internal temperature (or temperatures if dual-zone), regulate the humidity levels, and even minimize vibrations. You can find wine cabinets with solid doors, or wine cabinets with glass doors. The glass doors will always be UV-treated to ensure that your wine collection isn’t affected by the harmful UV light, preventing light strike.
You can find dual-zone wine cabinets that can maintain two temperatures within the same unit. However, this isn’t usually necessary for ageing wine. The reason people purchase dual-zone wine cabinets or multi-zone wine cabinets is to store red, white, and sparkling wines at separate serving temperatures - or to store some wine for serving, and some in the longer term. There are three designs of wine cabinet - freestanding, built-in, and fully integrated. With freestanding wine cabinets, the key is in the name - they stand freely and aren’t designed to be installed in small spaces or under kitchen counters. If you’re looking for a wine cabinet that you can integrate into kitchen space, then you should opt for a built-in or fully integrated design. These can be installed into tight spaces due to the location of the vents - not as much ventilation space is required.
One of the main mistakes that people make when ageing their wine is opening the bottle too early. The key is timing - be sure to research the ideal ageing time and conditions for the type of wine or wines you’re ageing. There are several factors that can determine the ideal time to open the bottle - one of the main being the quality of the wine. The vintage can also determine the time, as lighter years tend to mature quicker. Your wine storage space can also determine how soon you should open your bottle, as can the size of the bottle. Smaller bottles are likey to age quicker than larger bottles (e.g magnums), so be sure to leave larger bottles to mature for longer.