April 26, 2017 | By Chris Holman
One of the most rewarding experiences for craft winemakers is opening a bottle of our own craft wine that has been ageing gracefully in the wine cellar for months. And, it is even more rewarding to share that wine with friends and family – who are blown away by the quality! This week’s Craft & Cork will teach you what you need to know about ageing wine and how to get the most out of your craft wine once it is bottled.
Temperature: Like all chemical reactions, wine ageing will be affected by temperature. Temperature is the single most important variable that plays a role in the storage and ageing of wine. The warmer the temperature, the faster the wine will age and the colder the temperature, the slower it will age. Maintaining a constant temperature between 10°C-18°C (50°F-65°F) will ensure that the chemical reactions involved in wine ageing will proceed at a steady rate. Once you have set your cellar temperature, it is just as important to ensure that a constant temperature is maintained. If the temperature increases suddenly, the wine will expand in the bottle which will reduce the headspace (ullage) in the bottle. When the wine cools back down it will contract and pull oxygen into the bottle through the cork.
Humidity: Once we have set our ideal cellar temperature we must ensure that the proper humidity is achieved. Humidity plays an important role in maintaining the moisture level within the cork. If moisture levels drop below 50% for more than 6 months, the cork will begin to dry out resulting in wine oxidation. Therefore it is crucial that a humidity content of between 50%-75% is maintained when ageing your wine.
Light : In addition to temperature and humidity in your wine cellar, you must also ensure that the cellar is as dark as possible when ageing your wine. Ultraviolet (UV) light will damage the wine by causing the breakdown of otherwise stable organic compounds in the wine. These organic compounds contribute to aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel of the wine. Even if you have your wine cellar away from natural light, fluorescent lights also produce UV light. If florescent lighting is your only option, just ensure that your bottles are protected by a physical barrier or the lights are only turned on when you are in the cellar.
Vibration: During the wine ageing process, especially for red wines, phenolic compounds in the wine will slowly interact with one another during many complex chemical reactions. During these reaction, the polymerization of anthocyanins (color pigments) and tannin will occur which will result in the reduction of astringency and softening of the wine’s mouthfeel. Excess vibrations during ageing will prevent these reactions from occurring, so keep your wine away from stairs and doors that are consistently used.
The above guide can be used to determine how long to age your RJS Craft Winemaking wine. If you don’t have access to a temperature controlled cellar, don’t worry! If you have a basement or a spot in your home that will not see large temperature swings each day, this is where you should be ageing your craft wine!