Wines typically have peak quality (flavor and aroma) for specific time periods after their vintage. Wine can be aged and strategically opened during these times to maximize enjoyment. However, wine quality is subjective. Some people prefer young wines and others prefer aged wines.
In general, the quality of a vintage of red wine is good after 1.5 years, peaks between 2 and 2.5 years, and diminishes after 4-5 years. However, many factors contribute to the quality, so vintage should not be the only one used to select wine.
Red wines with more tannins age better. Red wines with higher alcohol age better. Red wines with higher acidity age better. Each of these acts as preservatives.
In general, the quality of a vintage of white wine is good after 0.5 years, peaks between 1 and 1.5 years, and diminishes after 2-2.5 years. However, many factors contribute to the quality, so vintage should not be the only one used to select wine.
White wines with higher alcohol age better. White wines with more acidity age better. These act as preservatives.
Some wine is already aged by the vintner. This includes some fortified wines, dessert wines, and sparkling wines. These do not need to be aged, and can be opened upon purchase.
As wine is aged, the ambient conditions do affect the flavor and aroma of the wine. Aging wine (bottled, cask, or box) should not be exposed to heat, light, or vibrations (including noise). These are all forms of energy. Adding too much energy to wine will cause it to age more quickly or develop off flavors and aromas - the excess energy allows possible endothermic reactions to occur.
Wooden wine casks and bottles with natural corks also need to have a high humidity. If the air is too dry, the wood/cork will dry out allowing the wine to evaporate and/or oxidize.
The ideal temperature is between 50-55 F (10-13 C).
The room should be dark - not exposed to long term sunlight or artificial light.
The relative humidity should be about 70%.
Bottles should be tipped on their side - this allows the wine to aid in cork moisture.
The room should be quiet.
A cellar fulfills all these conditions almost perfectly, which is why they have become a standard wine storing location.
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