The golden days of yesteryear when top quality Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and Rioja needed to be stashed away in the deepest, darkest corner of your cellar for 20 years before drinking are almost confined to the history books. The world continues to imbibe the new wave of fruit-forward, fresh, early-drinking wines that have been hitting our shelves over the last couple of decades. How times change.
So is it worth keeping your lovely Yarra Valley pinot noir for a few years until the primary fruit develops into something more complex and earthy? And if you cellared your amazing Margaret River Chardonnay for a decade, what would happen to it? These are the sorts of questions that fine-wine collectors and amateur enthusiasts alike are once more regularly asking.
Whether or not a wine is worth cellaring is another question and something that must be looked at on an individual wine-to-wine basis. Most wine that is produced in the modern wine era is made to be supped up young when it is fresh, fruity and delicious; however some can evolve and some even demand a little bottle-age before they actually start to drink as the winemaker and the wine gods intended it to.
Our A-Z guide on cellaring wines gives an in-depth run down of what to look for when cellaring wines, and also serves as a step-by-step guide to ensure that you’ll not be disappointed in your investment. Remember, identifying wines that are ripe for cellaring takes a bit of research and patience, but the good thing is that research means opening a few delicious drops along the way to assess whether or not they will age - so all is not lost!
To age or not to age
Generally speaking, for a wine to have the ability to age it must have a few things in check to make sure that it stands up to a period in the cellar. As our guide points out, tannins, acidity and sugar are all important factors when determining whether a wine has the ability to be cellared or not (and all act as a natural preservative), and like any wine these all must be in balance to ensure that the wine has any chance of enduring a stint in the cellar.
The Long Haul
One of the prime candidates for a stint in the cellar is top quality fizz. The naturally high acidity of well-made sparklers ensures that freshness is preserved, even with a bit of ageing, and good fizz will develop a lovely brioche, toasty, nutty character in a good cellar. Look no further than Ed Carr’s stunning Arras Grand Vintage, which is up there as one of Australia’s finest sparkling wines. Stunning in its youth and loaded with spine-tingling acidity, this wine will age gracefully for many moons.
On the white front, two of the world’s most revered grapes for ageing gracefully are Riesling and chardonnay. When choosing a Riesling, why not go for a wine from one of the country’s superstar winemakers, Geoff Grosset. His Grosset ‘Springvale’ Watervale Riesling, hailing from the Clare Valley, maybe isn’t as well known as the more famous Polish Hill, but it won’t break the bank and is worthy of gracing the cellar of even the most serious of collectors.
When seeking out some chardonnay to sit alongside your Riesling in the cellar, there is no better place to head than to Margaret River and Vasse Felix with their stunning Chardonnay release. It’s modern Australian chardonnay at its finest and more than stands its ground against serious opposition from overseas.
Shiraz has long been the poster child of Australian red varieties and continues to excite and enthrall in all its guises. Try the marvellously sumptuous Head Wines ‘The Blonde’ Barossa Shiraz for good times in its youth, but after mid-term cellaring it will only start to sing, with plush fruit settling down to become something altogether more brooding and earthy.
When exploring reds for the cellar why not look at adding some Old World glamour into the mix? Hailing from Piedmont in the north-west of Italy, Nebbiolo has long proven to stand the test of time when it comes to cellaring. Massolino is one of the leading lights of modern day Barolo, producing a traditional style of Nebbiolo that is stunning while young, but will also evolve for decades to come.
And last but not least, the aforementioned Bordeaux has always been a region renowned for producing serious wines that often demand serious cellaring, but also some seriously deep pockets! The revered 2010 vintage produced wines for the long haul, so for those feeling flushed, grab a few bottles of Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal 2010 from Pauillac and pop them in your cellar for 20 years. You’ll get to see for yourself what all the fuss is about.