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Proper Storage
and
Shelf Life of Wines


 

The age old question is how long can you store a bottle of wine before it will die. The life expectancy of most wines is only a few years Most wines are made to be drunk within month of bottling. If if a wine is suitable for Aging it will also depend upon the external conditions of how the wine is stored.

Sure we all think of French wines stored in Caves. But at home we do not have underground wine caves to store our wines. Even in France there was no guarantee the wine would not die.

There is no chart no standards , no direction beyond perfect storage and a few winemaker tricks to ensure wine can be aged. It may be safe to say that sweet wines age better than dry wines. Whites age better than Red: apparently not

Red wines are produced using the skin of the grape. Tannins are the key in aging red wines. Tannins come mostly from the skin of the grape. The quality and quantity of Tannins depends upon the grape varieties. The Tannins act as a preservative. Thicker skin grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have better aging prospects.

Other factors also enter the pitcher dry summer weather improves the aging prospect. The winemaker or vineyard manger also comes into play low yields increases the tannins along with longer skin contact and barrel aging has its effects too. It is also important as to when he grapes are harvest. Mature grapes have better aging potential

SO now we know why winemakers go to school and spent years learning their trade. Winemaking can be simple and it can be very complex. My personal recommendation is to ask at the winery what wines the winemaker determines needs to be aged.

The date you see on a bottle of wine referrers to its vintage. The year the grapes were harvest. Often a wine is not released untill three or four years after it is harvest. That's when the winemaker determines its ready to be enjoyed.

Aging wine in a cellar demands little or no exposure to Oxygen and light The temperature at which you store the wine is also very important. Wine should never be stored above 59% F or (15 C) * A wine cellar can also be too cold.
25 C or 17 F is far too cold and will damage the wine. Temperature fluctuation is a also a major concern.

Allowing the temperature to fluctuate the bottle begins to breathe the liquid and the air expands and contracts this results in either the wine been forced out the neck of the bottle or air( oxygen) to enter. This is know as weeping.

Humidity is also an important factor is storing wines. The humidity should be between 75% and 85%. If not the cork will dry out and harmful oxygen will enter. Humidity use to be very harmful to the labe.l Today's labels can handle this concern.

Ultraviolet ray can change the wine. Most wines are sold in colored bottles to filter the light. Never allow sunlight to enter your cellar. Avoid artificial lights when possible and no fluoresced lights.

Wines should be stored on their side. Especially coked wines. Today's screw caps and Stelvin caps help preserve wines

 

Old Cellar vaults with a natural earth or stone floor, high humidity and temperatures that stay constant provide the best conditions for storage.

 

Adding Sulfites to Wine

Sulfites are a naturally occurring compound that nature uses to prevent microbial growth. They are found naturally on grapes, onions, garlic, and on many other growing plants.

Winemakers have been adding additional sulfites to wines for millennia. The Greeks and Romans used sulfur candles to sterilize their wine barrels and amphorae. Sulfur protects damage to the wine by oxygen, and again helps prevent organisms from growing in the wine. This allows the wine to "last longer" too, which lets it age and develop all of those complex flavors we all love and enjoy so much. If you didn't add sulfites, the wine would turn into vinegar in a matter of months.

if you make wine without added sulfur, it's going to be more fragile. It will start to lose its aromas sooner, start to lose its color and eventually become muddy and cloudy. That can take years in some cases, but it can also take months

When buying wine unless you know what you are doing and have proper storage it is best to consume the wine within a few weeks of purchase.

But what about the shelf life of wine after the bottle is open

My best advice is drink the wine within a few days. Oxygen is the enemy of wine. as is light and temperature. Sometimes a wine that is not perfect can be enhanced by a few extra day in the fridge
Once a bottle is open proper resealing helps preserve the wine an extra day or so. There are also numerous products that claim to extent shelf life. You can try these if you wish.

Dessert Wines

Wines with higher sugar residual tent to be better suited to long -term cellaring than dry wines.
The higher the sugar count the better for aging the wine. Some whites can develop for ten years.
Chenin Blanc has good aging qualities. But once opened a few days of shelf life is the best you can expect.

 

 

Icewine

With such a brief history, determining the ability of Icewines to improve with time is open to conjecture. Sweet wines must have good acidity to gain complexity, so good balance is essential for long-term storage. Icewines are so attractive when young that there are few examples to assess (and those are very expensive). The best method for choosing an appropriate icewine to cellar is to base your choice on the grape variety used to make the wine. Icewines made with the Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes should be drunk young. Gewürztraminer and Ehrenfelser can frequently be low in acid, and while they will keep for 3-5 years, they are not good candidates for the cellar. Vidal is good for 5-7 years, although Inniskillin Ontario has Vidal Icewines from the 1980's that are reportedly superb.

For long-term aging, Riesling offers the best chance. The great, long-lived dessert wines of Germany are Rieslings, and the grape's ability to retain acidity, even in the hottest years, make Riesling Icewines the best bet for long-term cellaring. As with any other wine, good cellar conditions (constant, cool temperature) are crucial to allow the wine to develop its full potential.

Icewines can be enjoyed in their youth or aged for many years. Icewine in its youth will display classic fresh fruit characteristics and are crisp and clean. As they age, the wines tend to have a greater degree of complexity and depth, and begin to offer up a wider range of intense aromatics. During the aging process, the naturally concentrated acidity helps to maintain the structure and balance of the vintage. Icewine will also darken to a rich deep yellow/honey color as they age and if they are handled and stored correctly, they will also increase in value. Icewine unopened and stored on it side in a consistent and cool place (55-65 °F or 12-18 °C ) and away from vibrations can keep for many years.

Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser too pioneers in the making of icewine say in their book Icewine Extreme Winemaking that " Much depends on the initial sugar concentration of the juice and total Acidity. It is a good bet that Icewines made from grapes with low pH, high acidity and reasonable alcohol could live for 50 years or longer if cellared properly and kept very cool 10 to 13 C 55F

 

How long will an open bottle of Icewine last?

Due to the high sugar content, an open bottle of icewine will last 3-5 days after opening if re-corked and stored in the fridge. Why this would happen is beyond me. In our house, once a bottle is opened it is considered gone from the cellar.

The Chemistry of Aging Wine

Wine is a complex combination of many chemical compounds, which change as they interact with each other and their environment. Intricate reactions between the acids, sugars, alcohols, esters and phenolic compounds in wine are what modify the aromas in the bottle. When we age wine, we hope for changes that cause the wine to mature well by gaining a complex mix of complimentary flavors. As the chemical reactions that take place during aging vary between grape varietals, regions, and even crops from year to year, they are not easily quantifiable, and we are not yet at a point from which we can predict exactly what flavors a wine will develop as it ages. But what we do know is that as the compounds in wine react over time, they create new flavors, changing the original product into something more complex and subtle. A correctly aged Pinot Noir can gain aromas of truffles; a Syrah can become fragrant with rich spices. It is theorized that grapes evolved aromatic compounds as a means to entice pollinating insects, and it's lucky for us that they did, for without the primary aromas from the grapes, the chemical reactions that take place during aging would have no materials to work on, and we'd never end up with tertiary flavors like leather, earth, and nuts that give a properly aged wine its complexity

 

Not matter how you store your wine or how long you keep it after opening bad wines are simply bad wines. You can't make them better.

 

*Today we have wine storage build into our kitchens but your home today is usually heated to 70 plus F That's too warm for even red wines. These storage spaces are okay for for short time shortage a day or two. Your better off to store the wine in a cool dark place like under the stairs.

 

Wineries of Canada

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