Bottle Aging, by Choice
Wineries like JARVIS give a great deal of thought to aging our wines, first in the barrel and then in the bottle. Barrel aging is essential at first, but if left in the barrel too long the wine loses it's natural fruit flavor. To prevent that, we do the rest of the aging process in the bottle. Proper bottle aging is always critical to your full enjoyment of wine. And it is a choice you, as the customer, can help make. JARVIS red wines improve dramatically for the first several years of bottle aging and then taper off in their improvement over the next several years. There are fabled stories about wine aged for decades but our main interest in this writing is for the practical situation of aging for less than a decade.
We value proper bottle aging so much that we always do three years of bottle aging in the cave before releasing red wines. That is a year longer than other comparable wineries and usually means, for better or worse, that our wines miss out on some of the popular ratings such as Wine Spectator and Parker who do their principal ratings of younger wines.
Bottle aging is partly a function of the wine breathing ever so slightly through the cork. With larger bottles, which use the same cork size as smaller bottles, this form of aging takes longer. If you are buying a wine to cellar, then the larger bottles can be a good choice. That is one reason we offer wines in the larger sizes ranging from Magnums (1.5L) up to Imperials (6Liters). The large Imperial bottle shown in the picture to the right holds 8 times as much as the normal 750ml bottle size, while the cork is only double size. The aging concept can work both ways. If you want to serve the wine sooner, then our half bottles can be a nice choice. They use identical cork sizes as the full bottles and thus will age about 20% faster.
My discussion so far deals with bottles aging in the stable low temperature of our cave. If you should keep the wine an additional time at room temperature in your house then the aging may be accelerated, but much higher than room temperature can ruin the wine flavor.
The ability of wine to age gracefully is influenced by its tannin composition since aging involves the oxidation of tannins. If a wine starts out with very few tannins to begin with, it does not profit much from aging. This would be the case with many off-the-grocery-shelf-wines. But it is true also for most white wines including the Chardonnay we offer. Many a Chardonnay has been ruined by cellaring too long. Our Chardonnays reach their maximum potential after two or three years of bottle aging so our advice is always to drink the Chardonnay while it is at its peak and try not to lose track of it in the cellar for long periods of time!