On a recent trip to the liquor store while perusing the wines displayed in front of me I overheard a customer ask a store consultant "What is a good wine for aging?" After a moment of contemplation the consultant responded with "That depends" and proceeded to give the customer a crash course on cellaring wine. As I walked away I looked back at the customer and could see they were somewhat overwhelmed with the answer.
Cellaring wine does not have to be an undertaking costing thousands of dollars nor does one have to evict their first born so you can turn their bedroom into a climate controlled storage area. One does however need to be aware of a few important aspects of wine storage.
Wine Cellar Temperature
The industry standard for cellaring wines is around 11ºC to 13ºC. A few degrees either side of this is acceptable. Basic high school chemistry tells us that lower temperatures slow down chemical changes while higher ones will speed them up. If your storage area does not allow for a constant 12degrees then aim for gradual temperature changes. Sudden increases in temperatures will accelerate evaporation and prematurely age your wine. A storage area with a more constant 15 or 16 degrees is better than one that goes from 10° in the winter to 20° in the summer.
Ideal humidity levels should be around 70% however this can be next to impossible to attain without a properly designed storage area. Maintaining a proper humidity level will prevent the corks from drying out causing them to shrink and allowing oxygen to contact the wine. Storing the bottles horizontal will also help to keep the corks moist.
Wine and Light
Why is light so damaging for wine? Wine is an organic liquid. Organic compounds like proteins are sensitive to ultraviolet light. When wine is exposed to UV light it will cause complex organic molecules to dissolve and they will start to ruin the flavor and the natural aging process of wine. Much like the effect long term exposure to the sun has on your skin.
The aging process for wine is a long one. Wine needs to sleep and vibrations or movement during this process can extend the aging process. Avoid storing your wine near machinery such as clothes washers/dryers that will agitate the wine.
Ten Tips for Wine Storage
1. Lay bottles down so corks are always wet.
2. Maintain a constant temperature (11-13° Celsius). Don’t place near heat sources.
3. Choose a North wall if possible to avoid summer heat.
4. Ensure some humidity and air circulation.
5. Avoid the kitchen for long term storage.
6. Avoid areas near vibrating machinery.
7. Keep away from strong smells. Odours such as paints, solvents and cleaning liquids can seep through the cork and taint the wine.
8. Ensure the area is dark. Bright light can oxidize the wine.
9. Store your wines close to the floor where temperatures are cooler.
10. Apartment/condo dwellers use your bedroom closet. It is probably the darkest, coolest area you have.
When all is said and done the bottom line is find the coolest, darkest, quietest spot you have to store your wines. If space limitations and budget restrictions dictate that your wine cellar is the bottom of your bedroom closet then that may work. What is important to remember is that happiness is a well stocked wine cellar.
Tags: Wine Storage