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How long should the wine be stored?'
What does the aging process really do for you? The aging process is allowing a small amount of air (oxygen) to come in contact with the wine over a period of time. Some wines only need a short period of time, while others can be stored for many years. You are essentially allowing the wine to oxidize at a very slow rate so that the flavors blend better, and the alcohol bitterness is allowed to subside.
White wines produce a light and subtle flavor when they are done, and do not require a long age time to produce great results. Most white wines can be enjoyed within 6 months of making them. The fruit flavor is lighter than a red wine, so you are only waiting for the alcohol flavor to mellow out and become more subtle. White wines are not a great style of wine to store for longer periods of time. Most wine makers feel that 5 years is about the maximum amount of time that you want to store a white wine.
Light Red Wines
Lighter red wines, such as, Blush, White Zinfandel and Chianti's can be drunk fairly early on. Most people enjoy these types of red within 9 to 12 months after making them.
Dark Red Wines
Darker styles of red wines, like Zinfandel, Merlot & Cabernet are meant to be aged. These types of wine are very bold in flavor, and can take years to achieve greatness. Yes, you can drink them as early as 12 to 18 months, but most people enjoy having even more age time on their wine. This is the type of wine that you place in the back of your cellar and forget about for a few years.
I know that some people don't think the Island Mist kits are considered a true wine, but they sure are good. These wines are designed to be ready to drink in a very short period of time. The flavor is mostly from a fruit extract, so you aren't as worried about the alcohol mellowing as other types of wines. You can start drinking these wines almost immediately, but they improve in taste for up to 6 months. They store in the same time frame as white wines, so 5 years is about as long as you want to age it. But, we doubt the wine will make it that long anyway.
Wines made from apples, rhubarb, plums, etc. usually fall into the same time frames as white wines. The fruit tends to be more subtle in flavor, so a long age time is not required. Most styles of this variety will be ready to drink in around 6 months. Some wine makers wait for 12 months, but it depends on the fruit. These wines are not great at storing for long periods of time as they can oxidize quickly. You are looking at 3 to 5 years to drink your fruit wines.
Hint: Taking a bottle or two from each batch and hiding it toward the back of you wine collection. People get very excited about the wine they make, and next thing you know, the wine is all gone. To build a better understanding of your wine knowledge, hiding a bottle will allow it to age longer. Maybe you find that bottle a year or two into the future. Give it a try and see how it compares to when it was younger. You might find that you enjoy it even more now than you did 12 months ago.
Hint: The first year or so can be hard on a new wine maker because you want to try the results of your efforts. Something you can do is plan a few whites or Island Mist kits for every red wine that you make. You can make several white wines in the same time frame as you can a red, so you are able to always have the wine that you have made on hand. An extra secondary can really help keep the wine flowing as well. It all depends on how much wine you like to keep on hand, and how much you want ready to drink.