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If I want to age my wine do I necessarily need a wine cooler?

If I want to age my wine do I necessarily need a wine cooler?

Some wines are purchased for immediate consumption while others to lay down and age gracefully. When wines are young, we taste their primary wine flavors such as citrus in Riesling or plum in Merlot that meld with secondary flavors from winemaking techniques like vanilla flavors from oak or buttery nuances from malolactic fermentation. But when wines age we begin to notice their tertiary potential, notes that come only with time like concentrated dried fruits. Honey, herbal notes, mushroom, stone, and earth also come to the forefront during the aging process as acids and alcohols react to form new compounds presenting as tertiary notes. Whites become more viscous and golden, and reds become smoother. Sounds enticing and worth the wait, doesn’t it? So, how does one best age wine and do I need a wine cooler?

Aging wine is an old-world technique practiced for centuries in underground caves or basements. So, if you have a basement, you likely do not need a wine cooler. However, it’s not that simple. Excessive humidity causes mold to accumulate around corks causing damage and taint. Too little humidity causes corks to crumble, permitting oxygen to enter the bottle and causing spoilage. So, evaluating your basement’s humidity is a worthwhile exercise and of course humidity can be easily mitigated with an inexpensive humidifier/dehumidifier. Bottles meant for aging require dark and cool storage around 53–57°F. A constant temperature without much fluctuation is desired to decrease the chance of volatile chemical reactions taking place. Similarly, ultraviolet rays can damage wine, so a dark environment is desired for wine again.

In the absence of a basement, I found my wine coolers to pay great dividends. Living in Arizona, few homes had basements, and ours didn’t. Knowing the importance of temperature, humidity, and UV light control, we found that a wine cooler was the perfect solution to collecting wine in Arizona. Initially, we purchased some small capacity coolers, but quickly ran out of space. Then, we invested in a 660 bottle capacity wine cooler, and when we filled it, we purchased another one with 400 bottle capacity. The smaller mini refrigerated units that hold 25-50 bottles or so, are reserved to hold those fatter Champagne or Burgundy bottles that don’t fit well into the slots of the larger wine cooler cabinets. It has been a great solution that has allowed us to age special wines that we have collected over the years – from our children’s birth years, to wines we hand carried back from winery visits.

For many wine lovers who become collectors, looking back on an older vintage brings back the memories of that year – where you bought the wine, what you thought to pair it with, and who to share it with. Not only will the aging process add finesse and complexity to the wine over the years, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that the wines have also appreciated in value.

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