Cellar notes #1: Age of enlightenment

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The traditional view that old is good in wine has been turned on its head. But still the classic wine FAQ is "how long will this wine keep?" Beaujolais is the archetypal drink-me-young wine. Today, thanks to the proliferation of New World brands, so is much else. The back label might say "this wine will reward cellaring for up to five years", but 80 per cent or more of all the wine bought in this country is drunk within 24 hours of purchase.

But if you've ever accidentally left that bottle with the back label lying around and opened it on spec, you may well have had a eureka moment. Wow! The discovery that ageing can improve a wine beyond all recognition is why people do apparently strange things like scoop out the coal-hole and sit on wines like broody hens. While everyday wines have a limited shelf life, superior wines go uphill and reach a plateau before starting the journey down again.

Wines will repay a little nurturing. They may play havoc with your bank balance, living space and relationships, but they are worth the fuss. The sheer breadth of this kind of wine's character and quality creates the potential for endless discovery. The more you know about ageing, the more it will inform your decisions.

So, a wine cellar doesn't have be a dingy dungeon. It need be no more than an extension of the practical aspects of enjoying wine. Each week, I aim to touch on these different aspects of buying and storing, helping you to make better choices. You drive, I'll be your navigator.