Most people buy wine and drink it immediately, but some buy wines to lay down. Most of the wines on retail shelves are ready for immediate drinking and will not benefit from long-term ageing, but it is difficult to find a hard and fast rule to say which wines will improve with cellaring. Ageing potential depends on grape variety, vintage, region, winemaking methods, packaging and bottle size.
White wines with high acidity, such as vintage champagne, will improve with ageing. Red wines with high acidity and tannins also age well. Talking to wine professionals, reading about vintage conditions, and tasting wines are ways to assess when you should drink your wines.
Ideal storage conditions
Temperature, humidity and lighting affect ageing. The ideal temperature is 12 to 14 degrees Celsius. Humidity levels should be from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. At lower levels the corks may dry out, causing oxidation. At higher levels mould may grow, and labels will deteriorate. Bottles should be stored horizontally to keep the cork moist, and in the dark to avoid ultraviolet light affecting the wine.
Where to store
Avoid storing wines in hot places such as above the fridge or in direct sunlight. You could invest in a wine fridge. The capacity ranges from 30 bottles to 200 bottles. You should buy the largest wine fridge possible. From personal experience there is never enough space.
Professional storage in Hong Kong
If you buy wine by the case and run out of space at home, professional storage is another option. Since the abolition of the wine duty in 2008, many collectors have started to ship their wines back to Hong Kong.
This has spawned a growing industry in commercial storage facilities. The following companies offer storage:
Many merchants will store wines for you at a yearly rate. Alternatively, you may want to store them under your own account in a bonded warehouse. The largest is Octavian Vaults (octavianvaults.co.uk).
When you begin a collection, it is a good idea to start a recording system. This can be done simply on an Excel spreadsheet and is a useful way to keep track of your wines and to decide which ones are ready to drink. There are also websites such as cellartracker.com that help manage wine inventories, share tasting notes with a community and let you know which wines are ready for drinking.