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Should I cellar Grasshopper Rock?

Should I cellar Grasshopper Rock?

Yes. Typically wine critics who have tasted earlier vintages of Grasshopper Rock assess the best drinking period as being from now to ten years after vintage date. For example the 2013 vintage is best drunk from now until 2023. This does assume reasonable cellar conditions.

For example this recent review of Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2013 by Sam Kim, Wine Orbit:
Continuing their refined style, the 2013 offering delivers excellent depth of flavour and richness together with elegant complexity. Gorgeous aromas of dark cherry, plum, mixed spice and floral with a hint of cedar lead to a focused palate that is richly textured and beautifully framed by bright acidity. Long and engaging, lingering and delicious. At its best: now to 2023. Feb 2015. 94/100, 5 STARS (Tasted at the Pinot Celebration)

What happens when I cellar Grasshopper Rock?

To quote Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide 2015: "In a vertical tasting of the 2006 to 2011 vintages, held in July 2012, the wines were all maturing well, with a theme or grace and harmony". Wine will not necessarily improve with ageing but it will change. Pinot Noir has a high level of flavour compounds, such as phenolics (most notably tannin). These compounds are, in simple terms, long carbon chains, they can be volatile and they do change with time. The wine becomes less fruit dominant and develops other flavours, aromas and often greater interest.

Read more about phenolics in wine at: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenolic_content_in_wine or Jamie Goode's article at: http://wineanorak.com/polyphenols_in_wine.htm

What makes a wine good for cellaring and how long should it be cellared?

Wines with high acidity (low pH) such as Pinot Noir have greater capability of ageing. When grapes ripen they are initially high in acid (as in unripe apple taste) and as ripening progresses the acidity decreases and at the same time sugar levels increase and tannins in the skins and seeds ripen.

At harvest grapes should be sweet, full of flavour and have no taste of greenness. The best sites achieve this balance more consistently than the lesser sites.

On hotter sites this transition from unripe to ripe happens quickly and timing of harvest has a big influence on the resulting wine.

On cooler sites, such as Grasshopper Rock, where the night temperatures during ripening are very low, the period to develop the precursors of flavour and aromas (the phenolic compounds) is longer and the cool temperatures slow the reduction in acidity. Higher levels of phenolic compounds will increase the complexity of aroma and flavour and it will increase the likelihood the wine will age well.

Wine critics, reviewing Grasshopper Rock Pinots, will often make notes such as: "Good focus and acidity", "Showing lovely purity", "This has tremendous balance", "It's pretty but it has structure", "Detailed and complex", "Lovely purity and finesse", "Very pretty with good acidity and structure". Words such as, purity, detail, finesse, acidity, balance and structure are all essential components of a wine that can be expected to age with grace and harmony.

The ageing potential of Grasshopper Rock is at least 10 years and we believe may be significantly longer. Burgundy Grand Cru can potentially age 8 to 25 years so Grasshopper Rock may have greater ageing potential than we yet know. This will be influenced by the vintage and storage conditions.

I want to cellar some Grasshopper Rock, how much do I need?

You can build a matrix and work it out but in summary, buy one case (12 bottles) to cellar plus buy one case to drink now. Let's use the 2013 vintage as an example of a typical vintage.

Year 0 – 2013 Vintage year

Year 1 – 2014 Maturing in barrel then bottle at the winery

Year 2 – 2015 Wine is released and available to purchase

Year 3 – 2016 Drink 2 bottles

Year 4 – 2017 Drink 2 bottles

Year 5 – 2018 Drink 2 bottles

Year 6 – 2019 Drink 2 bottles

Year 7 – 2020 Drink 1 bottle

Year 8 – 2021 Drink 1 bottle

Year 9 – 2022 Drink 1 bottle

Year 10 – 2023 Drink 1 bottle

Repeat the purchase of one case for the cellar each year and you will always have the pleasure of selecting from a range of vintages when you open a Grasshopper Rock.

It may seem a long term plan but if you enjoy wine and the hidden world of aged Grasshopper Rock you will act now. We will only guarantee two things:

  1. You will get a lot of enjoyment seeing Grasshopper Rock evolve over many years.
  2. Buying old vintages of Grasshopper Rock is both difficult and expensive.
Cellaring is simply setting wine aside in a room or enclosed space suitable for storing wine.

Cellaring it is not difficult and with a little self discipline and forward thinking you will be well rewarded. If you have a place you can call your cellar then it does help avoid the temptation to grab a bottle when it should really be left for another year. A cellar can be purpose build either professionally or by any handy person. The environment you want to achieve avoids daily temperature fluctuations, light and continual vibrations. Many homes, garages and basements already have such spaces and closing them off will enhance and secure the space. Off-site specialist wine storage is another option.

  1. Avoid light and vibrations – these are easiest to avoid.
  2. Avoid large daily temperature fluctuation. Less temperature variation is better.
  3. Avoid high temperature storage conditions. Lower steady temperatures are better (eg. 12 deg C)
  4. In NZ unless you have temperature controlled storage you will probably struggle to keep summer cellar temperatures under 18 deg. If your cellar is insulated this is ok as the daily fluctuations will be low. High daily fluctuations will cause earlier ageing than a higher stable temperature.