I read the article you reference and I agree with the advice, to a point. That it’s OK to keep wines in the bulk-aging stage (before bottling) warmer (the referenced article says 70–75 °F/21–24 °C) than wines that have been bottled (55–60 °F/13–16 °C). While I’m OK with non-barrel wines being aged 55–65 °F (13–16 °C), I would never go as far as 70 °F (21 °C) for any stage post fermentation. That’s just my opinion, however. Read on for more information as to why I think this way and why it’s OK for us to have differing thoughts on matters.
If you took a survey of wineries around the country and measured cellar and barrel storage temperature caves and warehouses (rather than just talk anecdotally to folks) you probably would find a decent range of temperatures reported. However, if you’re barrel aging the one thing you really want to guard against is evaporation/transpiration through the porous wood of the barrels. We can’t ignore chemistry or physics and as many of you know the warmer a liquid is the quicker it evaporates. Steam vapor off of a hot kettle of soup is just very warm water, after all. So I do believe that barrels need to be kept in slightly cooler conditions than perhaps one’s tightly bunged up keg or carboy “farm” in the home basement.
I think that the 70–75 °F (21–24 °C) range mentioned for ideal long-term bulk aging is a little high. Especially if you’ve got a big red wine that might take the usual 18 months, and especially if I were storing my wine in barrels, I would hesitate to store my wine for that long in that high of temperatures. Just like we can’t ignore chemistry and physics, we can’t ignore microbiology. It’s a proven fact that the vast majority of microbes, including our not-so-friendly spoilage yeast and bacteria (the “bad guys” I’m always talking about trying to exclude from our wines) grow better in warmer temperatures. Just like human beings, they like to be warm and cozy and are inhibited once temperatures start to get below about 55 °F (13 °C), though any reduction in temperature helps. Part of the reason most commercial wineries keep their cellars chilly is to ward off the growth of wine-spoilage microorganisms.
As far as risking your red wines not opening up after two years of aging at 55–65 °F (13–16 °C), if your red wine hasn’t opened up and aged nicely in that time period I think a cool storage temperature is the least of your worries — likely your wine kit had too much tannin in that tannin packet. In my experience, kit wines and wines made with concentrate don’t tend to have the tannin and anthocyanin structure that many wines made from whole grapes do and often can actually age faster than fresh grape wines. I would think that two years at 75 °F (24 °C) would pre-age and oxidize a kit wine, but that’s just me. Do also keep in mind: White wines and more delicate reds like Pinot Noir just can’t hold up to the number of years in bulk aging that bigger reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, or Petite Sirah can and generally benefit from a shorter bulk-aging period. Keeping temperatures cooler, like under 65 °F (18 °C), would provide some beneficial protection to the wine’s color and flavor elements.
It’s also very true that kits can vary quite a bit brand-to-brand and variety-to-variety — who knows, maybe some kits are tannin monsters that don’t open up after two years of aging. Though that does seem a bit of a stretch to me. The first time trying a kit it’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including aging guidelines, and then tweak it from there if necessary. If you belong to a home winemaking club or online organization, be sure to check around and ask your friends if they have experience with aging times and temperatures with certain kit brands and flavors.
As always, keep in mind that different authors and guest contributors will have different opinions and lived experiences. Most of my longtime readers know that I’m a small- to large-scale commercial winemaker based mostly in California, that the thoughts and opinions herein expressed in my WineMaker magazine columns are entirely my own and that I’ll always be bringing my unique perspective to each piece I write.
All of our articles go through an editorial review (yeoman’s work, many thanks to those folks over the years who’ve labored to do it!) and though it’s always the magazine’s goal to educate and be consistent, I do also think there’s room for debate around what’s a very complex subject matter. Which is why I’m not afraid to disagree with something another author wrote at some time in the past and why I retain respect for and perspective on what they might have written then based on their own experience. For what it’s worth, I personally like to bulk-age my wines (all made from whole grapes) in cooler temperatures in the cellar (50–60 °F/10–16 °C) and try to keep them 50–55 °F (10–13 °C) when bottled.