Lifestyle & opinion

The joy of ageing wine

Experiencing the excitement, complexity and sense of occasion that are part and parcel of laying down wines is easy and affordable, says Fine Wine Manager Shaun Kiernan.

The joy of aging wine

There are plenty of delicious wines made to be enjoyed ‘on the fruit’ in their youth, but there’s something uniquely special about drinking a wine which has had some time in bottle. Wines made for ageing are more interesting, more complex, revealing the different layers of flavour that wine is capable of. I’m fascinated by the notion of tasting the effect of time on wine, as the primary fruit flavours begin to be complemented by notes it’s hard to believe can come from the humble grape: leather, forest floor, dark chocolate, mushroom and bread, not to mention myriad floral aromas.

For a big birthday last year, I was lucky enough to be given a Madeira which was more than a century old, and which beautifully demonstrated how long and how amazingly wine can age. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to experience the joy of aged wines. A fine wine email sent out last autumn memorably featured a 21-year-old Languedoc red that had blossomed impressively into a wine that was truly delicious and displayed great personality at an asking price of just £20 – including time served!

Buying en primeur is even better value. Last year, I withdrew from Members’ Reserves my mixed case of 2013 Rhônes, for which I originally paid £10-£15 a bottle. They were fantastic. And, I have to say, I always feel slightly smug when I see one of my treasures on a restaurant wine list and compare the asking price with what I paid on release.

It gives me great pleasure to look at my Reserve wines online, thinking about the delights in store and the people I’m going to share them with. Wine, after all, is about sharing and I love to invite friends to join me in uncorking something I’ve been keeping for years. It’s a centrepiece, a talking point and, frankly, a bit of a ‘pat on the back’ moment, too: what a great decision on my part, to invest so early on in future wine happiness!

Wine barrels

Museum Release

These are wines where we’ve done the ageing for you! We buy them on release, age them at The Wine Society and release them when they’re absolutely ready for drinking. We say these wines are ‘sourced expertly, aged patiently and drinking perfectly’, and this sums it up beautifully for me.

>Browse Museum Release wines

Vintage Cellar Plan

Subscribing to a Vintage Cellar Plan means you can build a cellar of wines chosen for you by our buyers. This popular option is a great way of trying a variety of wines at different stages of their evolution, so that you gain a deeper understanding of your own taste while creating something special for the future.

>Read more about these plans

In Bond

Buying from en primeur and First Release offers (before the wine is shipped) is like chalking your name ona great wine: we let you know when it’s arrived and store it for you until you’d like to withdraw and enjoy it, based on our annual drink date recommendations. Duty and VAT are only payable once you take delivery or transfer them to our duty-paid Members’ Reserves.

>Read more about buying wine in bond

Members' Reserves

Our purpose-built, temperature-controlled Reserves facility is at your disposal for en primeur and Vintage Cellar Plan wines, and, indeed, any of the wines you buy from The Society that you’d like to keep a while – and at the best price in the UK for wine storage. It’s also eminently flexible, allowing you to withdraw and try a few bottles at a time as your wines mature and evolve.

>Find out more about our wine storage service

First Release

This is an exciting new way of buying in-bond wines. Introduced in 2022, it allows members to buy some of the world’s finest wines when they first become available. Unlike en primeur offers, the wines made available in this way are bottled and ready to be shipped. Like en primeur, they are sold in bond, with duty and VAT payable once the wines are withdrawn from Stevenage or transferred to duty-paid Members’ Reserves.

>Read more about First Release

>Read more on storing and serving wine

Shaun Kiernan

Fine Wine Manager

Shaun Kiernan

Shaun joined The Wine Society way back in 1981. Before joining our Marketing Team, he worked in various areas of the business – including running our Showroom for four years. He looks after the marketing of our fine wine selection, including en primeur offers.

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