The most important factor affecting the ageing of wine is the conditions in which it is stored.
At Henschke, we recommend that you cellar your wine in ideal conditions, as outlined below; however, this is not always possible. Our vintage charts represent optimum drinking age in relation to ideal conditions; therefore we would recommend consuming the wines sooner if stored outside of these conditions.
Bottles sealed with cork must be stored on their side so that the cork remains moist, stopping air from entering the wine, which causes it to become oxidised. Storage in very dry areas (eg, air-conditioning) can also cause more rapid drying of the cork. Bottles sealed with screw caps or Vinolok closures can be stored upright.
It is recommended that white wines be cellared from 7-12°C and from 12-18°C for red wines. The storage area must be cool as warmer conditions will increase the rate at which a wine ages. A wine stored in a cupboard in a centrally heated/air-conditioned apartment with an average temperature of 22°C would age more quickly than wine matured in an underground cellar with an average temperature of 14°C, and therefore would be best consumed sooner.
A constant temperature is the most critical factor in cellaring wine. Variances in temperature can cause rapid maturation and/or spoilage of the wine, especially where extremes of heat are concerned. A few minutes in a hot car at 45°C can cause a wine to mature rapidly; an hour would spoil it totally. Fluctuations in temperature increase the rate of ageing reactions in the wine, and if sealed with a cork closure, will place pressure on the cork due to the repeated expansion/contraction of the wine inside the bottle.
Light can also increase the rate of ageing in wine, and can spoil it over time. This is particularly applicable to UV light, and therefore it is recommended that wine be stored in a dark place.
Cases are best dispatched by refrigerated transport (this will vary among distributors), and will then be stored in a wide range of wholesale and retail outlets. Some of these will have temperature-controlled cellars, but many do not. It pays to buy from a reputable merchant with good in-house storage. Direct purchase from the winery is also an option to consider, especially if the wine can be transported in a cool vehicle.
Opening and Serving your Wine
Our tasting notes rate each vintage and the projected longevity of the wine.
Old wines must be treated gently. To settle sediment, stand the bottle up gently and leave for a few hours, or a day in cool, dark conditions.
Old corks are prone to crumbling, so it is best to use a two-pronged cork puller to remove the cork in one piece. If the cork still crumbles, carefully decant through a fine tea strainer or gauze.
Decanting gently aerates and removes sediment. Select an appropriate sized decanter for your bottle. If your wine has sediment, mark 700ml on the decanter first, then pour just 700ml into it. Pour the remainder into a glass. If it stays cloudy, with sediment suspended, then discard.
The age of the wine will determine how long you decant before serving:
Less than 10 years: 1 to 4 hours
10 to 20 years: 30 minutes to 1 hour
20 years and older: immediately before serving, no more than 30 minutes.
Wines under screwcap or Vinolok are best after a gentle decant an hour or so before serving to gently aerate and ‘open up’ the wine.
Young wines also open up with the gentle aeration of decanting. Sometimes we double decant, but we never use aerators, as they are too aggressive on the wine. It is amazing how quickly an aged wine will lose its aromas once it has been poured. You will notice the different effects on young and aged wines as they sit in the glass.
Good quality wines can be kept overnight and the best way is to store in a fridge as the cold temperature stops the process of chemical oxidation.