Aging Wine and Making it Last
The second school of wine aging is represented by folks who've conquered the production curve and now need advice on how to age their wine. There's not a lot of useful information out there about where to put the wine you're trying to age, what conditions it should be kept in, and just how long it will last.
A few people have the impression that wine made from kits won't age as long as commercial wine, but that's just not the case. Over the course of my career I've had red wine from kits that was 15 years old that was heavenly--richly ethereal and wonderfully balanced. Even the whites do pretty well: I found a bottle of Riesling in a forgotten place after eight years and when I opened it I was rewarded by the most perfumed and elegant white wines I've ever drank. As long as you follow your instructions, especially if where they discuss the possibility of adding extra sulfite for aging, you're set to put the wine down for the future.
The key to long-term aging is steady temperatures. After that try to get as close to 58F as you can manage. Don't get too hung up on the absolute temperature. Most homes don't have a space that hovers at 58F (unless they have an actual root cellar or similar, in which case this discussion is moot: put your wine down there with the beets).
Many homes get cold in winter, but over the course of the year, they warm up again, and that's really bad for the wine. It's better for storing your wine to have a much higher temperature that remains constant. You'll get vastly better aging results in a space that's 75F that never changes up or down than you would in one that's 58F but goes up 10 degrees over the course of the year, or (even worse) spikes up and down over shorter periods, such as a day or a week. Steady temperatures will keep the wine inside the bottle from expanding and contracting against the cork, 'breathing' and oxidising.
My usual suggestion is to hit a hardware store to buy a Min/Max thermometer. They're cheap and easy to find, and feature a dial that will record the highest and lowest temperature through any period you like--if you check it daily, it'll tell you the daily swing, weekly the same. Put it in any likely aging place in your home--the basement, the crawlspace, the spare bedroom on the north side of the house, etc. and see what has the steadiest temperature.
My usual advice is to shoot for a basement or ground-floor room against the north side of the building. There's less chance of radiant heat from the sun heating up the rooms on the north, and closer to the slab or basement will keep things steadier than a higher floor.
Once you've chosen your aging area you'll need to conduct empirical research to determine the aging potential of your wine. There are so many variables that it's just not possible to give broad recommendations on how long your wine will improve or last--but that's true for commercial wine as well. No producer is going to guarantee the exact aging periods for their wine, because they can't eliminate all of the variables that exists.
And here's the secret to that: however long it took your wine to reach its peak, that's how long it will hold that peak of deliciousness. If you make a blockbuster red like our Rosso Ardente with grapeskins, it may take two years to knit up all the gigantic tannins and deliver the rolling layers of fruit and power to your palate. And then it will last two full years in that state of grace.
Of course, you'll need to plan ahead, because if you hit that perfect mark and drink it all up in a couple of months, it'll be two years before you get to taste something that good again--which brings us to Vandergrift's Third Law of Home Winemaking: The Last Bottle of Any Batch Will Always Be the Best.