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Wine Storage:
How long should you keep your wine?


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Archeologists discovered the world's oldest wine in a Roman tomb in Speyer, Germany in 1867. The glass bottle containing it dates back to 325 A.D. You can see it, but not sip it, at the Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Germany, where it's on permanent display with other wine antiquities. It's not something you're likely to encounter in your wine collection, but it does beg the question, how long should you store wine?

The Fine Wine Concierge says most wine is meant to be consumed shortly after purchase or within 12 to 18 months of the vintage date. All too often, they say, wines stored for special occasions are forgotten and then "pulled out to enjoy only after the fruity, luscious juice inside has become more vinegar than nectar."

The Fine Wine Reserve, Inc., a resource for collectors and connoisseurs, agrees that the vast majority of wine out there-as much as 95 percent-is ready to drink when you buy it. "Manufactured for immediate consumption, they will NOT improve with time. In fact, they will start to degrade from the day they're corked-even if properly cellared." The other 5 percent, they say, are the premium age-worthy wines, which will actually improve with age and "may only reach their full potential after five, 10 or up to 50 years in the bottle."

Whether you're buying ready-to-drink wines by the case or investing in the premium vintages, proper storage (also known as cellaring) is the key to maintaining quality. That means avoiding rapid, frequent or extreme fluctuations in temperature, minimizing exposure to bright light, maintaining proper humidity and observing the right handling techniques. Beyond that, you'll need a system that catalogs your collection and alerts you to drink wines at their peak.

Terroir France provides extensive cellaring guidelines for French wines based on region and appellation. For example, a Beaujolais Nouveau should be consumed within days of its annual November release, while a Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cotes du Rhone can be stored for five to 20 years and a Barsac Bordeaux can wait 50 years or longer.

If you prefer domestic wines and less expensive vintages, Fine Wine Concierge offers the following cellaring guidelines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon-seven to 10 years
  • Pinot Noir-up to five years
  • Merlot-three to five years
  • Zinfandel-two to five years
  • Chardonnay-two to three years, although better ones can keep five to seven years
  • Riesling-three to five years, but longer for the very best
  • Sauvignon Blanc-18 months to two years at the most
  • Pinot Gris-one to two years

If you're unsure about storage length for a particular wine, your wine merchant can always advise you.

Is It Still Good?

Sooner or later, you're going to want to enjoy your wine collection. But how can you tell whether your old wine is still good? The easiest way is to simply uncork it and take a taste says "Wine that is past its prime rarely turns to vinegar, as in older times, but it turns brownish, flat and dull, oxidized to the point where it resembles bad cheap Sherry." Not tasty, but not toxic, either. Drinking an over-the-hill bottle can't hurt you, unless you paid a lot of money for it in the first place and didn't get to enjoy it at its best.

If you have a collection of wine you'd like to preserve for a while, check out local wine storage facilities near you.

"The Roman Wine of Speyer", Deutsche Weine -

"How Long Does a Wine Keep?", Fine Wine Concierge -

"Wine Storage Facts", The Fine Wine Reserve, Inc. -

"How Long Can I Keep Wine?", Terroir France -

"How Long Will Wine Keep on the Wine Rack?", -

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