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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Aging wine without a cellar

Although 99 percent of all the wine made in the world is meant to be enjoyed while it is young and fresh, the remaining 1 percent includes many of the most noteworthy wines. Accordingly, it's the rare wine lover who doesn't eventually decide that it would be a fine idea to "lay down" a few Bordeaux or Burgundies, Ports or fine dessert wines to improve with age.

But then you learn the "gotcha" of wine cellaring: For the best long-term results, fine wines need to be kept at a constant 55-60F (13-15C). Too cold, and they will barely evolve at all; too warm, and they will age quickly but not well.

So for SERIOUS wine collecting, unless you're lucky enough to have a natural cave or earthen basement that maintains the right temperature year-round, you'll have to invest in a free-standing cellar unit - a fancy refrigerator designed for wine - or have an insulated, climate-controlled room built in. As you might imagine, these are not inexpensive options.

Is there any hope for those of us who enjoy wine and want to try aging a few bottles without having to make a four-figure investment?

Well, sort of. With the understanding that it's a compromise, there is no reason to let the lack of a cellar deter you from setting a few good bottles aside. Here are a few hints that may help maximize your success:

  • Start with ageworthy wines: "Big," tannic reds - Bordeaux and good international Cabernet Sauvignons, Rhones and Shirazes, and good Spanish reds like Rioja and Ribera del Duero - as well as fortified dessert wines like Port (both the Portuguese original and the Australian variety) and Madeira hold up well under adverse conditions. Don't try to age whites or delicate reds except perhaps as a limited experiment to see what will happen. Sometimes wine will suprise you.
  • Choose your location wisely: Find a cool, quiet corner for your wine collection. Don't use the kitchen or dining room, and choose a spot away from direct sunlight and heat registers.
  • Do not disturb: Let your wine bottles rest on their sides, so the cork stays in contact with the wine. And if you've heard the old legend about "turning" your bottles periodically, forget it. Your wine is sleeping, and it doesn't want to have somebody come in and roll it over any more than you would.
  • Don't wait too long: While ageworthy wines stored under perfect conditions may last for decades, don't expect that kind of results at room temperature. Just about any cellarable wine should last fine for two or three years, especially in an air-conditioned or naturally cool home environment. But based on my experimence, five years approaches the limit; after that you run an increasing risk that your wine will be "tired" at best ... losing its fruit, browning in color, and taking on the heavy, sherrylike qualities that oxidation imparts. (For a real-world example, see the tasting notes below.)
Have you tried keeping older wines without "proper" storage? I'd like to hear about your experiences. This link,, will take you to an ongoing discussion about aging wine in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. Or send me E-mail at, and I'll save them for use in a future report. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note. But I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

Please tell your wine-loving friends about The 30 Second Wine Advisor (weekly) and Wine Advisor Express (daily), and invite them to register for their own free subscription at

30 Second Tasting Notes:
An "aging project"
One of my frequent recommendations for a robust, affordable red wine capable of aging is the Australian Penfolds' Shiraz-Mourvedre blend labeled "Bin 2." Year in and year out, I have found it an exuberant, fruity wine with a pleasant earthy character, while in many vintages it is so "tannic" (astringent) in youth that it shows real potential for improvement with age.

Recently I opened two vintages side-by-side: A just-arrived 1999; and a 1993 vintage that I purchased late in 1995 and intentionally set aside on a rack at room temperature (in an air-conditioned room) just to see what would happen. The results corroborated my suggestions above: The 1993 vintage did hold up, and gain complexity, over five years or so, but I'm glad I didn't keep it any longer. If it's not already "tired," it's starting to blink its eyes and yawn.

Penfolds 1999 Bin 2 Southeastern Australia Shiraz-Mourvedre-Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99)
Clear, dark garnet, it's a bit closed at first but soon opens up to ripe berry fruit with an earthy, "resinous" edge that's likely the Mourvedre. Good fruit and acid balance, it's a full, jammy wine with a distinct edge of tannin lurking behind the fruit. U.S. importer: Southcorp Wines North America, Monterey, Calif. (June 1, 2001)

Penfolds 1993 Bin 2 Southeastern Australia Shiraz-Mourvedre ($7.99 in 1995)
This wine, aged 5 1/2 years at room temperature, is dark ruby in color, with a distinct amber tint at the edge, a standard sign of an older wine. Black fruit and earthy "tree bark" aromas are consistent with earlier tastings of this wine, but now a light, not-unpleasant walnutty note suggests encroaching oxidation. The same's true on the palate, where deep, earthy fruit, balanced and ripe, jostles for attention with light nuttiness and still some surviving fuzzy tannins. It has held up well, but can only go downhill from here. U.S. importer in 1995: PWG Vintners USA, Monterey, Calif. (June 1, 2001)

FOOD MATCH: That delicious earthy Mourvedre character makes both wines a natural match with a meatless dinner of roasted beets and steamed beet greens.

Food Lovers' Voting Booth:
Your dream food career
Most wine lovers are also crazy about food and eating, but are you passionate enough about food that you have ever dreamed of actually being in the business? What if you could have any job in the vast and exciting world of food? Could you teach the Iron Chef a thing or two or pick up where Emeril Lagasse left off? Would you trade in your dreary old desk job for a quaint country cottage, a herd and a chance to make your own goat cheese?

Well, you get the idea: If you have a dream about working in the food business, here's your chance to tell the world: Our occasional Food Lovers' Voting Booth is now open for you to "choose your dream food-related career!"

To get in on the fun, click to the Voting Booth,, to cast your ballot; then you can compare your choice against those of other participants around the world.

30 Second Advertising Partner:
Chateau Palmer
Major General Charles Palmer, an English gentleman and aide de camp of the Prince of Wales, invested in French vineyards after the Napoleonic wars. From 1816 to 1831, he bought land and buildings in Bordeaux until his holdings amounted to 163 hectares, including 82 hectares under vine. Thanks to his many contacts and his charming manner, Palmer's Claret became all the rage in London clubs, and was appreciated by the future King George IV.

Although General Palmer went bankrupt and had to sell his magnificent estate in 1843, Chateau Palmer remains to this day as one of the world's greatest and most respected wine producers.

Wine Lovers' Page is proud to have Chateau Palmer join us as a sponsor, and I think you'll enjoy its new Website,, which features abundant information about the chateau, its wines and the vintages and information about visiting the winery. Although it's not an E-tail site, it also features a "Find Our Wines" feature with clickable links to wine shops around the world where Palmer's wines are sold.

Chateau Palmer

30 Second Administrivia
This free E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday, and our daily Wine Advisor Express is E-mailed Tuesday through Friday. Previous editions are archived at

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time at the Wine Lovers' Page,, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials. If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, click to our interactive, international Wine Lovers' Discussion Group forums,

Vol. 3, No. 20, June 4, 2001

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