Barrels & Verticals: All About Aging

Jill Ruzicka - February 7, 2017

Our first Barrels & Verticals event is just around the corner on February 25th and several Lake County wineries will feature a special vertical tasting for you to enjoy.  Before you embark on your Barrel & Vertical adventure we will try to answer some of the most asked questions regarding vertical tastings and wine aging.  

What is a vertical tasting?

A vertical tasting involves tasting multiple vintages of the same wine (same varietal and producer).  This allows you to taste either subtle or dramatic variances that can be found in wine based on the year that it was produced.  Wineries are an ideal location to experience a vertical tasting because most facilities will carefully store their wines at the optimal temperature and humidity level.  This will ensure the longevity of the wine being stored and will allow you fully examine the differences between various vintages with a decreased chance of tasting a wine that has not aged well.  

How long can wine be stored?

This is a very common question with no right answer.  Most current releases that you purchase at wineries or stores are meant to be consumed in the short term.  Advances in technology and grape growing practices are allowing winemakers to produce wine that is ready to drink as soon as they release the wines to the public.  Yes, there are exceptions, and yes, wines will definitely change over time, but it might not always be for the better.

If you do decide to cellar some of your wines, there are numerous factors to consider that will aide in the aging process.  Acids are one such component.  Wines with higher acidity tend to age longer and red wines with higher tannins tend to age more gracefully as well.  Tannins come from contact with the skin of the grape and also from oak barrels.  The tannins will mellow over time as the wine ages.  Fortified wines and wines with higher sugar content tend to age for lenghty periods of time.  

How should wines be stored?

If you do decide to hang on to your wines, then it is best to follow a list of basic principles to ensure that your wines remain drinkable:

1. Temperature:  The ideal temperature for wine storage is 55 degrees, but unless you have a wine refrigerator or a temperature controlled wine cellar, this may not be possible.  The most important aspect of temperature control is consistency.  Wine does not age well with large fluctuations in temperature so try to find a location in your home that stays consistent and always try to keep the wine under 70 degrees.   
2. Light: Wine should be stored in a dark space.  UV light, especially from the sun, can degrade the wine and cause it to age prematurely.  Fluorescent lights emit a very small amount of ultraviolet light as well so it is best to use incandescent bulbs in the area where your wine is stored.
3. Direction of the bottle: Store your wine upside down or sideways for best results.  This will ensure that the cork does not dry out and allow oxygen into the bottle.

If you have additional questions regarding wine aging and storage, then be sure to attend Barrels & Verticals and relay your questions to any of the participating wineries!

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