The suggested cellaring potential of any wine is a direct result of the processes employed by our winemakers on the basis of the fruit character. Some wines are made to cellar, others not as those early-drinking styles want fruit vibrancy as the core of the wine style.
Some wines, such as our Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is a wine made for immediate enjoyment, to enjoy that fresh, pure fruit character. In contrast, the 2012 Project Sauvignon Blanc, produced from a special parcel of fruit with indigenous yeast fermentation and oak maturation, in which complex fruit character and textural notes are present, might age for up to 7 years.
Of Voyager Estate’s wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot and Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon have the longest cellaring potential, and will generally keep for more than 15 years. The Shiraz is considered to have a medium cellaring potential of around 10 years and the Chardonnay has the longest cellaring potential of any of our whites, of up to 15 years.
How do I cellar my wines?
A number of factors need to be controlled in order to best cellar your precious wines, namely temperature, light, vibrations, humidity and external smells. With the move to screw caps, humidity and external smells are less critical, however it is still important to retain wines at a constant temperature and to minimise exposure of bottles to light and vibrations. Therefore keeping a wine-rack in your kitchen or family room, which might look the part but where there is constant movement and light, is not a great solution.
Temperature is by far the most important factor. Warmer temperatures will accelerate the ageing process so ideally you should keep your wines at a temperature of between 10 and 15°C, which in most Australian environments means a wine fridge is the best option for your wines. Don’t despair if you’re without a dedicated wine fridge as, just as important is the lack of significant fluctuations in temperature. For example, a closed closet or cupboard on an inner wall of your house, in a room that isn’t often used will retain a fairly constant temperature throughout the year, even if it is higher than 15°C. Just remember, the warmer the temperature, the quicker your wines will age, so perhaps start drinking them earlier than their suggested cellaring life.
Don’t keep your whites for too long in the fridge either, especially if corked, as, over time, the cork with contract with the cold and therefore allow too much air into the bottle, oxidising and ultimately spoiling the wine. Long term storage of screw capped whites in the fridge is not recommended either. All Voyager Estate whites are “cold stabilised”, simply chilled to below 0°C for around four days to allow tartrate crystals to form and these are then taken out of the wine prior to bottling. However, these crystals occur naturally in the wine (they are simply a union between the tartaric acid and potassium which both exist in grapes) and will continue to form if the wine is kept for a long period at very low temperatures. While they are in no way harmful, you may find that wines with “wine diamonds”, as they are commonly called, will have an altered, softer mouth-feel, as the tartaric acid is one of the primary elements keeping the wine’s freshness.
Wherever possible, keep bottles on their side throughout their cellaring period and don’t turn them. This is absolutely essential for corked wines to ensure the cork is always damp and therefore avoiding oxidation, but also useful for screw capped wines so that any sediment remains at the shoulder of the bottle and can be kept separate when pouring.
What happens during the ageing process?
The ageing process is a complex array of chemical reactions which occur differently for each wine. Essentially, it is the slow dissipation of the fresh fruit character compensated by the development of an aged bouquet, subtle flavours and soft textures. The colour of the wine (whether red or white) slowly shifts toward a brown hue with age.
In whites, it is thought that the colour change from straw through to gold and finally brown has to do with a slow oxidation of the wine. In reds it is because the colour pigments and astringent tannin particles bond, lightening the wine’s colour and at the same time making the wine feel softer and smoother. Mouth-feel is also softened in part by small losses in the wine’s acidity, but what is generally considered “softening of acid” is, in fact, primarily due to an increase in the quantity and type of particles present in an aged wine, as flavours and other elements of the wine detach from and interact with each other.
The size of bottle will influence the ageing process. A magnum (1500ml bottle) will tend to age much slower than a normal 750ml bottle for the simple fact that there is less liquid exposed to the elements (light, heat, vibrations) allowing the chemical reactions of the ageing process to take place at a much slower rate.
Written by Claire Tonon, Voyager Estate Sommelier