Thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all become familiar with the concept of stockpiling. And while most of the headlines have been dedicated toward the frenzied acquisition of toilet paper and tinned goods, the savviest amongst us have been eyeing our wine supplies and ensuring we have what it takes to survive every stage of lockdown in style.
Even in the absence of a global crisis, buying wine with the future in mind (not just to drink in the next month or two) is a shrewd decision. Firstly, buying a sizable amount of the wine you love will ensure you pay less for it in the long run. It’ll also guarantee that you can appreciate how it (hopefully) gets even better over time.
To ensure you’ve backed a winner, here are some tips to keep in mind before you start a stockpile.
WHEN YOU’RE LOOKING TO STOCK UP ON RED WINES:
Bordeaux wines generally age particularly well, as do the Cape’s cabernet sauvignons and cab-sauv blends like the one I mention at the end of this article.
Wines that have more tannins (that astringent, bitter taste) and a higher acidity level tend to age better.
The higher the alcohol level, the longer a wine should be able to last. That’s why fortified wines are some of the most age-worthy red wines of them all. In fact, there are some Maury (French fortified sweet red) wines from the 1920s that are still quite drinkable.
Complexity is also key. A wine that isn’t complex to begin with won’t become complex with age.
WHEN IT COMES TO LOADING UP YOUR WHITE-WINE COLLECTION:
Chardonnay and semillon tend to age well, as do other varietals from cool-climate vineyards. The Constantia Valley is a prime example of this, with many of its white blends and sauvignon blancs standing the test of time just as well as their red contemporaries do.
Look closely at the white wines; they are usually over the hill (oxidised) when they turn yellowish brown. Since white wines darken as they age, the best ones to start stocking up on and keeping back for a few years should be pale to begin with.
Just like with red wines, white wines with a higher acidity are more resistant to chemical changes that occur with age.
Sweetness also acts as a preservative and increases the ageability of white wines. This is why some dessert wines have been noted to age for 50 or more years. Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance is a prime example.
SO, WHAT NEXT?
When you find a wine that you really enjoy and that has ageing potential, buy a decent amount of it so that you can enjoy it now, and in a year, five years, and again in ten. Like any investment, diversity is key. Don’t just stick to one brand or style of wine. Every vintage and year brings with it new surprises and stories to tell.
To make sure your wines really do get better with age, give some thought to how you’re going to store it. Find a place where the temperature range is fairly consistent and is away from any heat sources or direct light. If the wine has a natural cork, store it on its side to keep the cork from drying out and shrivelling.
That’s it. Here’s to both our wines and selves getting better with age!