Fine wine is an investment in both time and money, for wines worth maturing are rarely cheap and maturing them always takes time! You'll want to protect that investment with quality storage and the right service techniques for when you're ready to drink your wine, here's where today's blog can help you get the most from your mature fine wine.
If you're lucky enough to have a collection of maturing fine wine then it will be important to you to ensure i) the wines carry on maturing without any deterioration from exposure to the elements and that ii) when you do pop the cork that you serve the wine optimally, ensuring its fullest potential is realised and the fragile wine is not compromised by sediment, handling or oxygen.
We can help with the first part of this equation as most of our wine coolers are built for long term storage, have active carbon filters, humidity and temperature controls that ensure your wines mature gracefully for decades to come. The service of mature wine is a little more complex and where we will go into more details here.
This weekend we popped the cork here at CoolerSomm HQ on a 35 year old Gran Reserva Ribera del Duoro from top tier producer Tinto Pesquera, purchased from Hedonism Wine some months ago and stored in our Swisscave WLB-460DF-MIX units.
A 35 year old wine from a less than stellar vintage simply would not have made it had it not been stored well prior to opening. This delicate wine though did live to tell the tale and you can read our review over on our Instagram feed.
These were the steps we took serving this mature wine.
#1 - Settling the sediment - In order to ensure the sediment was still it's important to leave a wine to stand for some time to allow the sediment the settle. As the wine coolers here have display shelves we could keep the wine inside the wine cooler and settle the sediment ready to serve ahead of time - a key benefit with display shelves.
We were informed by the team at Domaine de la Chevalier that a wine of 20 years should be left upright for the sediment to settle for two weeks, 30 years a month and 40 years or more for 6 weeks, good advice.
#2 - Check the clarity - Once your bottle has spent some time upright you should check the clarity of the liquid throughout the bottle from top to bottom. You'll want the sediment to be gathered at the bottom of the bottle. You can check the levels by shining a bright flashlight through the bottle.
#3 - Extracting the cork - You can not be gentle and careful enough when removing the cork from a mature wine. Anyone with experience of this knows that it can take a surgeons hand to remove the cork in one piece from mature bottles and with some bottles you simply don't stand a chance. The cork is sodden and it IS going to crumble.
As Julia Sewell of Hide says 'If a cork disintegrates and falls back into the bottle, the simplest solution is to filter the wine through a fine mesh – either cheesecloth or a sieve, depending on how small the pieces of cork are'
#4 - Decanting your wine -There's tons of disagreement around how long to decant mature wines for and even disagreement about the ratio of air to oxygen needed but for most red wines of age you'll want to use a decanter that will offer a low air to oxygen ratio (like the Jancis Robinson X Richard Brendon Mature Wine Decanter we have used in our photo). This gives the benefit of removing the sediment from the wine but not exposing the fragile wine to too much oxygen.
Take care when decanting the wine to spot sediment travelling into the neck of the bottle and round off your pour to avoid them sliding into the decanter. The candle trick above is an age-old, proven way of helping you spot the sediment before it becomes an unwelcome part of your fine wine experience.
#5 - How long should I decant mature wine? -This depends on so many factors. To answer this you'd need to know how fragile the wine was before it hit the decanter (how old is the wine, what was the vintage like, is this a grape varietal with lots of tannin, was the wine stored well etc). In reality, although experience can guide you (for example a 20 year old Barolo would usually benefit from a longer decanting time than a 60 year old Burgundy), the best thing to do would be to sample the wine every 30 minutes or so to see what impact the oxygen was having.