Aging wine

If you are a wine lover, it is likely you dream of owning your own wine cellar.

Not a wine refrigerator, a real wine cellar. Bricks and cedar and recessed lighting and space to share a meal with four people, as long as they bring sweaters.

And not just a room, but one stocked with cases upon cases of wine. So many cases you could forget about some for decades as bottles aged to fantasized perfection. So many you could never drink them all.

There was a time when such a cellar really meant something because various wines, especially from the Old World, required bottle age. Not today.

Vineyard and winery management has changed the wine world. One key is “green harvesting,” a revolution that in less than 25 years has become a near universal practice, especially among quality wines.

Green harvesting begins about a month before harvest. Vineyard workers examine clusters. Those not maturing on schedule (those that are “green”) are pruned away, allowing the vine to focus resources on the remaining, higher quality clusters. The result is a harvest of better fruit that is more uniformly ripe and has softer, rounder, finer tannins.

A traditional benefit of bottle age was to soften the effect of unripe grapes and their biting tannins.

Add advances in wine making to the mix. Cleaner conditions, better understanding of oak, filtration, micro-oxygenation, and a flotilla of other tricks allow winemakers to make acceptable wine from pedestrian grapes, and exceptional wine from quality grapes—wines wonderful right now, not 20 years from now.

Almost any wine you buy today is ready to drink when you buy it. Some benefit from five years of aging—but the winery probably did three or more of those years before releasing it for you to buy.

Build your cellar, stockpile wine, invite me over; I’ll bring a sweater. For most bottles, drink them tonight. Invite me over for that, too.

Tasting notes:

• Geyser Peak Chardonnay Alexander Valley 2009. Tropical fruit, pear, green apple, lemon, vanilla; crisp, clean, subtle oak; nice value. $10

• NxNW (North by Northwest) Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009. Lavishly juicy blackberry, plum, dark cherry; smoky, polished, rich; balanced tannins. $25

• Seghesio Home Ranch Zinfandel 2008. Generous nose; rich plum, blueberry, licorice, mineral; fine tannins, awesome finish; zin lover’s zin. $38

Last round: I drink wine because my therapist told me I should not keep things bottled up.