Wine Lingo: Cellar Magic
It’s inevitable. When out wine tasting, someone is going to start talking about “cellaring,” a vague and floofy-sounding topic. Bringing up something as medieval as a cellar has the instantaneous effect of glazing eyes, shutting off brains, and invoking “perpetual nodding syndrome.”
To avoid these unfortunate and all too common side effects, Terra Blanca by the Glass investigates the mysteries of dark and secluded wine cellars and why so many “winos” are keen on sticking their wines into one.
What we first discovered was that “cellaring” is a verb. You cellar something, are cellaring something, will be cellaring, etc. etc. It is an action that involves taking an object (in this case wine) and putting it into an area for…what?
That was the next point of research. Through much digging, we found that wine is cellared for aging. Why, though? Why hide something away from light, heat, and moisture for years and years? Theoretically, this process of aging does something to the wines while they’re in the bottle.
Practically speaking, the effects are sometimes beyond words. If you have the patience to not drink a bottle of wine (that you clearly liked enough after tasting to buy), that bottle will improve with time. Tucked away for a decade or more, wines will smooth out, become less astringent or sharp, and develop more complex flavor profiles (check out our previous Wine Lingo, /blog/Palate for more information on wine profiles).
To really see the effects cellaring can have, drop by the Tasting Room. Currently, we are pouring a 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as May’s Monthly Magnum Special. Nine years old and still young, this wine has started taking on properties of aged Cabs, namely a rich and complex finish of dark fruits, chocolate, and coffee.
Get here quick, though. June is right around the corner, and there’s no telling what we’ll dig out of our own cellar. Maybe it’ll be another 2005, maybe it’ll be older. Any dust on the bottles is free, by the way.
So what do you need for your own cellar? First and foremost, you need patience. Cellaring wine is a lesson in delayed gratification. Yes, it tastes good now, but trust us when we tell you it’ll be even better in seven years, in 10 or more. Ask your Wine Educator for projected cellaring dates for specific wines.
The next important item is the cellar itself. It must be cool and dry without sun exposure. Basements with moisture-sealed walls are the best places because they stay a relatively even temperature all year. Roller-coaster-like fluctuations are destroyers of good wine.
If a basement is unavailable (as seems the case in most modern housing), look for an interior closet (away from exterior walls and without windows shining on the door). Though a case box is convenient for storage, using a foam cooler or packing material will help keep your wine at an even temperature. Low tech methods work just fine.
Of course there is always the option of purchasing a dedicated wine fridge. These generally have size limits, both in the number of bottles they can store and the size of bottle that can fit into its racks, but temperature is easily controlled and regulated. Some even have separate coolers, one for long-term storage of all wine and one to chill whites for serving.
And while we’re at it, let’s clear up a common misconception that our Wine Educators get asked frequently. No, you do not need to refrigerate white wine to store it. Certainly serve it chilled, but our investigation has determined that white wines can sit right next to your reds in your cellar. Just don’t let them hang out as long. Dry whites don’t have tannins or sugar to protect them over the years, but we’ll save that for another installment of Wine Lingo.
In the meantime, grab a glass (or bottle) of your favorite wine and savor. Terra Blanca by the Glass will be back next week with a vineyard update. The vines are loving all this hot weather, and it shows!
Veni, Vidi, Vinum!