NICOLE MACKAY Nicole MacKay is a wine writer and consultant who holds her Level 3 Certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. Her passion for wine was sparked in the summer of 2004 while working in the tasting room of an Okanagan winery. That passion grew, as did the desire to explore the stories behind the bottles, which led to the creation of her own website, SocialSips.ca. Follow her on Instagram @SocialSips.
Starting a collection is simple. It takes one visit to your local BCLIQUOR store and one quality bottle you’re willing to lay down for a couple of years.
A wine collection starts with just one bottle. Not a vintage series from a prestigious producer. Not a sought-after limited release. And not a library wine that’s never seen the light of day outside of the winery cellar. You don’t need thousands of dollars to stock up on cult gems. Starting a collection is simple. It takes one visit to your local BCLIQUOR store and one quality bottle you’re willing to lay down for a couple of years. And it doesn’t need to be expensive. For the cost of a lunch out, adding a bottle here and there will result in a thoughtful and diverse collection that is enjoyable throughout the years, possibly decades, to come. But knowing which bottles will improve with age is the key to building a solid collection. Brush Up on Reputable Regions Certain wines from particular areas typically age better. Generally, when speaking about Old World reds from France, eye up Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhône Valley. In Italy, seek out Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino or Amarone. And in Spain, consider Rioja. Red wines don’t get all the glory when it comes to ageability. A small handful of white wines are renowned for their ability to age gracefully, becoming tastier with each year. In France, white wines from Bordeaux,
Quality Benchmarks of Ageable Wine Guesstimating a wine’s lifespan is infinitely easier if we know its quality level. Of course, this involves tasting it first, which can’t always happen. But asking for insights from your local BCL product consultants, or looking up reviews online can help. The four traits to look for in an age‑worthy wine include high acidity, tannin structure, alcohol level and residual sugar. All four need to be present and balanced to be considered good quality with the potential to age. High acidity wines start their life strong, then slowly mellow out. A wine that starts with low acidity doesn’t have the longevity to be a part of a collection. It’s a similar story for tannins. In red wines, higher tannins help a wine age for years. However, this trait is not a requirement for age-worthy white wines, as many improve with age without tannins. For white wines, residual sugar is the component to look for in regard to ageability, particularly with Canadian Icewine or German Riesling. And finally, when considering alcohol levels, a wine with low to moderate alcohol (about 13.5 percent ABV or less) is desirable for age-worthy table wines. Higher alcohol levels risk wine turning to vinegar. The exception, however, is fortified wines, like Port or Madeira.
Vouvray and Burgundy are good bottles to include in a diverse collection. The same goes for Riesling from Germany, which can sometimes age for decades. However, wines from the Old World shouldn’t fill every spot in the collection. New World regions have solidified themselves among the best. Whether it’s the Napa Valley, Mendoza or the Okanagan (where Icewine garners a tremendous reputation globally), adding a few of these gems will ensure a well-rounded collection. Know the Wine’s Lifespan Purchasing a bottle from a reputable region is not the only requirement to start a collection. There are a few other factors to be aware of. Namely, most bottles on shelves—no matter the region—are made to consume within their first year or two. Sure, some are drinkable well beyond that window; however, knowing which ones will improve with age is the key. Without pursuing formal wine education, the best way to know a wine’s lifespan is to seek the advice of a BCLIQUOR store product consultant. They know quality producers and memorable vintages, all things that go into knowing whether a bottle will improve five, 10 or 20 years down the road.
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