Wine storage is one of those things that we know means something and should be concerned with it, but how much does it matter and what effect can bad storage have on your wine? For this article, we've paired up with Elite Wine Refrigeration on how to store wine correctly and the things to be aware of which can affect how your wine develops due to good and bad storage habits.
Most wine drinkers like to drink a nice cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a warm summer’s day or a glass of merlot with a steak, it's not very often we think about where and how long for this wine has been stored for before it has been released to the market to be purchased. Most wines are often stored for many years before being released to the wine market for either consumption or storage and the way the wine is stored will determine a good wine from a poor-quality wine.
In this article, we will discuss the key factors that should be managed in order to ensure that your wines are stored correctly in order to help encourage the ageing process and to ensure the value of the wine only goes up.
Constant Storage Temperature
When storing wines in a traditional underground wine cellar, the temperature inside is relatively constant, remaining at around approximately 12°C throughout the year. This is largely because the walls insulate the cellar throughout the winter and likewise keep it cool during the summer.
On average, the rate of chemical reactions in wine doubles with each 10 °C increase in temperature. Most experts advise that wines should be kept at constant temperatures between 10 and 15 °C. This is the case no matter whether you may be storing red wine, white wine or sparkling wine. For example, storing a red wine at around 16-20°C for many years will rush the ageing process, not
allowing the wine to fully develop. The warmer temperatures make the reactions happen much quicker and this can in turn sour the wine. Likewise, with white and sparkling wines, storing these types of wine at the lower serving temperatures can stunt any development as the temperature is simply too cold for the reactions to occur.
Ideally, wine should be stored in a dark, cool environment; in fact, the darker the place of storage, the better. Light is a one of the biggest contributors to damaging a decent bottle of wine. Although the glass bottle protects the wine from any damage, it cannot completely rid this risk factor. Very often when you may see a bottle of red wine is left in the window of a wine merchants or restaurant, this is actually really bad for the bottle of wine – over time it will gradually discolour and lose the deep red colour. Not only can UV light effect the appearance of the wine; it can also have an adverse effect on the taste and palate of the wine. Extended periods of exposure to light will interfere with the natural reactions that are occurring inside the bottle. UV light also means warmer temperatures, raising the
internal temperature of the bottle, speeding up the rate that the wine ages, leading to the souring of the bottle of wine.
If you don’t have your own wine cellar in which to store your wines, a wine cooler is a great investment to keep your wines away from UV light and the risk factors that go with it. A wine cooler comes in two different styles; with either have a solid door which completely removes any risk of UV light entering the cabinet and also ensure complete darkness which is favourable for the ageing process. Alternatively, other units will be equipped with a UV treated glass door; much more aesthetically pleasing than solid door options, never the less they will ensure no UV light is able to interfere with the ageing process.
Humidity also needs to be taken into great consideration too when it comes to storing your wine. This very factor can cause unnecessary oxidation of wine and can be quite easily managed. Within a traditional wine cellar, underground the humidity levels tend to be kept at around 65-85% and though overall this has no effect on the wine itself, it needs to be managed correctly to ensure the wine doesn’t get damaged or spoilt. If the air around which you store your wine is too dry, the cork in the bottle may dry out. A cork is a natural substance and like anything, it can dry out over time so it is best to keep an eye out on this. If this happens the tight seal that the cork creates will be lost, allowing air to be drawn into the bottle and this can, in turn, lead to oxidization of the wine long before the bottle of wine has been opened. A dried-out cork can also lead to the cork compressing which can cause the wine to seep out causing a very expensive puddle in your storage area. Alternatively, if the humidity is too high and you may have kept your wine in an uninsulated garage or storage room – the excess water vapour can create the growth and presence of mould on the bottles of which can spoil the label and de-value the wine which needs to be considered if you are purchasing wine as an investment.
No Vibrations in Storage
When a wine bottle is being stored in underground cellars, the wine tends to be kept very still. All wines are best left untouched as any vibrations can disturb the ageing process and can actually cause the wines to separate into layers. Older wines tend to be a great deal more sensitive to vibrations. Some of the new world wines are now much robust than they used to be, however, a regular fridge isn’t as suitable for the storage of wines. This type of fridge is known to incur some vibration, with the wine bottles often moving around regularly to make way for the weekly shop! A good quality wine cabinet will offer the perfect means of storage, complete with a vibration-free system which basically means that the compressor - which is the culprit for excessive vibration during the cooling phase – is mounted to completely remove any vibration from the compressor. You will also find vibration reduction systems like this in much larger, commercial wine cellars which have the added risk of moving vehicles, high foot traffic etc. Most of the racking will be on rubber dampers and the bottles will be stored in boxes which are usually quilted with straw or dried reeds.
The Presence of Odours
Odours are often forgotten when it comes to wine storage, although a wine bottle is sealed there is still the potential of some odours that can actually sour the wine – this is something we don’t want if we have stored a bottle of wine for 5 or more years and then tastes flat once we come to open the bottle. Failure to controlling humidity as above can also lead to the presence of mould building up which
produces one of the musky scents that lingers around the wine bottles for a very long time, its scents like this that are known to be the culprit of damaging wine through the presence of unwanted odours. Wine storage is very important if you want to ensure the wines you purchase develop as they should and of course their value is either maintained or increases over a period of years as the wine
becomes more desirable. There are many options available on the market to help with wine storage, we recommend using reliable methods such as wine cabinets and temperature controlled warehouses designed specifically for the storage of wine – these methods will maintain and monitor the environment your wine is stored in which is much better than using a traditional wine rack under the stairs as such.
For this article, we collaborated with Elite Wine Refrigeration who are a UK based wine storage company who distribute wine coolers, wine walls and wine cabinets across the UK and Ireland – for more information or any questions, please do not hesitate to contact them.