How To Store Your Wine To Get The Most Out Of Your Investment
Wines, Like Humans, Don't Always Age Wellby Mat Vaughan - Niagara Wine Tours
Jul 12, 2011
Wines...The Coming Of Age
Over the last year one question that has consistently been asked while on a Travelling Grape Wine Tour is “How do I store this wine?”
Luckily, there are steps we can take to make certain that our prize wine is stored properly. In this way, its quality is maintained and the wine is able to age properly.
Before I get too far into this discussion, I will add that not all wines are meant to be aged. In fact, very few wines even have the ‘guts’ to last much past five to ten years. Only when the conditions are right, and all the components that can build a great wine are there, is there much point concerning yourself over aging conditions.
Notwithstanding the above comment, there are wines out there that are meant to age in order to enjoy their full splendour; and it is for those wines this discussion is dedicated.
There are five main factors that come into play when accessing your wine storage area. These include:
The first and most obvious of the five is Temperature. Temperature will affect the wine’s aging speed. As a rule of thumb, the warmer a space is the faster a wine will age. The cooler a space is the slower a wine will age. One of the major factors in the temperature of your storage space isn’t necessarily which temperature you choose to have your storage space at, but rather that the space remains at a constant temperature all year long. Fluctuations in temperature will cause the wine inside the bottle to constantly expand and contract. As a result, the cork that is holding the wine in the bottle is gradually being pushed and pulled in and out of the bottle. This push/pull of the cork will lead to the acceleration of oxygen exposure and will eventually oxidize your wine making it your next cooking wine. (Not good!).
Optimal wine storage is right around 16 – 17 degrees celcius. The worst place you can store your wine is in your kitchen. This is where you will have the largest temperature fluctuations due to cooking.
Humidity is another factor that comes more into play for bottles that are sealed with a cork, or composite cork material. A higher humidity level helps to keep corks from shrinking and allowing small amounts of oxygen infiltrate, resulting in oxidation of the wine. Ideal humidity is between 65-75%.
Constant or consistant vibration will ultimately ruin a wine. In red wines, vibration will prevent the wine from ever settling the sediment and will keep particles suspended. Keep the movement of the wine to a minimum. You aren’t making champaign here.. there’s no need to turn or move a bottle of wine unless you are planning to drink it.
Light exposure, in particular light from either the sun or an incandesant bulb will cause a wine to ‘throw’ its colour. The pigment in the wine can be altered through prolonged exposure to light. In some cases with red wines, light exposure can lead to premature colour changes. Most wine bottles are made with a UV protection layer that helps to prevent this from happening however, just like us, if we are in the sun too long, we are damaged from it. Wine is the same way.
Light exposure can affect the flavor of the wine significantly and result in premature aging. Generally speaking, whites wines are the most sensitive to light degradation, but reds will also be degraded if they are subjected to excessive light.
This factor is tied more to wines that are sealed with a cork. With advancements in the ‘twist top’ seal, many wineries are moving away from using cork, however for the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that your wine is using a cork seal.
Wine bottles should be stored on their sides or at least into a position that will keep the wine inside the bottle in contact with the cork. This will keep the cork moist and prevent it from shrinking and allowing oxygen to infiltrate the bottle and cause oxidation.
In summary, it is important to consider where you are storing your age worthy wines. If you are contemplating building a wine storage area, be sure that is regulated with constant, cool temperature, maintains a humid atmosphere, is placed in an area that is not subject to bumping, moving, or vibration, uses either red light, or florecent light (minimally), and is built in a way so that your bottles can be stored sideways or perhaps upsidedown if you are for whatever reason limited in how you store your bottles.
Until next time, Cheers!
Mat Vaughan, WJC (Wine Judges of Canada)
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The Travelling Grape Wine Tour Company is a customer focused wine tour that is designed based on both your tasting, and personal preferences. We provide guided tours year-round to all of Ontario’s wine regions offering door-to-door service leaving from the Kitchener/Waterloo area. For more information about our world class wine tours please visit our website at www.travellinggrape.com