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How did wine aging start and why do we do it?

October 02, 2015

Do you love wine? Are you not sure why you should have a wine cellar? Well maybe the information presented here will help you understand why a wine cellar makes a great investment. 

Let’s start with a quick history of wine aging. It is very interesting to learn that wine aging started many and many years ago, thousands of years ago, in a time that wine was not stored in wood barrels, but in ceramic containers, also called amphorae. Palm wood barrels were something that came along a little later in terms of wine storage, but were difficult to make. Therefore, due to the rigidity of palm wood and the impracticability of the amphorae, as well as the amplitude of oak trees in Europe, the oak wood barrels became the staple wine containers. 


We know what the wine was stored in, but how do we know wine aging was a practice even so many years ago? Well, archeologists found clues and relics that point to wine aging, to storing wine in dark and cool places, like underground cemetery tunnels, or specially built wine caves. It was acknowledged that aging would enhance the wine’s characteristics, adding new scents and flavors.

Over time, as everything evolved, the basic principles of wine aging continue on the same path; light, temperature, humidity, movement are a few of the main aspects that have to be kept constant while storing wine in order to be successful in wine aging. Although, today, we have better places to store our wine that can maintain those needed conditions, we do that in our own home, in our own private cellar. That is our specialty, here at Apex, building custom wine cellars, making it easy and convenient to age wine in your home. 

Chemistry of wine aging 

Wine is made out of a complex mix of chemical compounds that can alter and react with one another as well as the environment surrounding them. This is the reason why, with time, wine can get different aromas and flavors, and why wine aging has been a popular practice. Here are some of the chemical compounds and reactions that alter wine throughout time:
   • Esters 
These are chemical compounds that form when the alcohol reacts with the acids in wine, and they can really affect the aroma of the wine. With time passing by, these chemical compounds keep altering so the flavors one might recognize in a wine, if aged longer, the flavors will be different. 
   • Phenolic Compounds 
These compounds are the ones that provide us with many of the smells and tastes in wine that change over time. The most important phenolic compound in wine is called tannins. This is the chemical compound that gives certain wines a dry and bitter after taste, but over time, the tannins particles bind and they create the sediment on the bottom of a wine bottle. 
   • Oxygen 
Exposure to oxygen could be both good and bad. Good because with time, the wine could develop more earthy, nutty flavors, and bad because with oxidation, the wine can become too acidic or vinegary and could change in color. 


Wine aging is not something easy to do. We see that wine aging started a very long time ago, and that there are quite a few factors that influence the chemical composition of a bottle of wine, and over time, people have developed more scientific and technological ways to work around the variables. Now we have a better understanding of how a wine cellar should be built, what needs to be in it, and how to deal with many other factors, in order to create the perfect ambiance for wine aging. At Apex, our experts can help you built your dream cellar, while advising you on the best features to make wine aging successful. 


Learn more about wine storage: 
How to Start a Custom Wine Cellar Project 
Wine Storage Solutions for Small Spaces 
Transform Your Closet Space into the Wine Cellar of Your Dreams
Five Wine Cellar Trends to Watch in 2015