What a great question. For this vigneron the answer is simple; “for as long as you don’t want to drink it!”
Now I know that won’t go down to well for the WSET afficionados and the wine collectors, but my suggestion arises from 50 years of wine drinking and not quite as many collecting and storing. Even today I have wines in my collection that I have held for more than 25 years. These are wines that the winemaker and wine gurus advised me were definitely collectors and store worthy wines. The challenge I have is that as my wines mature in the cellar so too does my wine taste mature and change. So potentially great wines of 20 years ago that appealed when I tasted them and put them down for later drinking when I open them today, I find my palate preference has moved on and I really do not enjoy them. “Que Sera”
So for a more compliant technical answer perhaps check out some of the wine talker sites on the net. However for some user friendly and pragmatic advice I observe as follows:
- the average Australian wine is ready to drink within its first year of bottling.
- depending on the wine style and use of oak you can expect wines to modify (ie mature) in bottle and so gain character and personality that does not present in the beginning.
- well-made wine can survive and improve over 5 to 10 years or even longer, but ask yourself “Why would I bother if it is good wine now”?
- for the average wine cellar, the wine you store will not increase in value just rarity. So be pragmatic that older vintage wines in your cellar are just that, interesting and old.
- finally, it can be great fun to open old vintage wines from your cellar and share the experience, good or bad, with your friends. So that alone is as good a reason to store wines for awhile.
Above all, wine is about enjoyment, so do what you enjoy and take the journey.