#Winequestions: What is the best way to store wine?
So Christmas has been and gone and some very lovely people have decided to gift you a really nice bottle of wine. Smashing!
The thing is, storing wine isn’t all that simple. Sure the wine rack in the kitchen is ok for something bought on thursday to drink at the weekend but not for anything long term.
This week we’ve teamed up with Elite Wine Refrigeration to discuss the issues raised around wine storage. As consumers we know a lot about how to drink wine but when it comes to storage it’s not something that most people think about and this can affect its value and taste in the future.
We went to the experts in wine storage who distribute wine coolers, wine cabinets and wine walls around the UK for advice on what to consider when storing wine, here is what Callum from Elite Wine came up with.
Don’t Let UV Light in
Most wine merchants are known for creating displays in windows but if we had a time lapse of what happens to red wine in particular over a period of years, then the deep red colour would gradually fade and would become a lot lighter – almost as if the wine had been oxidized.
UV light is a critical storage factor to be considered when storing wine for period of a year or more. Although the wine bottle somewhat protects the wine inside, it is not UV treated and will allow some light through into the bottle – this is why we often see dark green, brown bottles.
The reason for light being such a big issue is primarily because it interferes with the ageing process which can visibly be seen in the colour of the wine. Over time the light that enters the bottle will change and/or interfere the chemical reactions and chemical structures of the molecules in the wine which can lead to souring of the wine and quite a flat taste which is not something you want when it has been left to age for 5 years or more.
Ideal Storage Temperature
The ideal storage temperature for all wines, which includes; reds, white and sparkling wines is 12°C. There is common misunderstanding when it comes to storage temperatures which is that reds and whites should be stored at different temperatures, this isn’t true – their storage temperature is the same, its only their serving temperature that differs.
At 12°C the wine is not too warm and not too cold, in fact it’s the perfect temperature to allow the chemical reactions which occur naturally over a period of years to occur – in a traditional wine cellar deep underground, the ambient temperature will be constant throughout summer and winter due to how deep down underground it is, the thick walls insulate the cellar and the temperature will remain at 12°C +/-2°C.
Storing red wines at their serving temperature of between 16 and 18°C for periods of longer than 6 months to a year can dramatically affect the taste of the wine as it will increase the rate of the reactions happening inside the bottle which can effectively rush the process rather than the ageing process occurring naturally. For white wines, although generally they do not need to be stored for as longer periods as reds – if you store them at their serving temperatures of between 5 and 8°C then the ageing process will be limited as the temperature inside the bottle will actually be too cold.
Vibrations and any unnecessary vibrations are to be avoided, in a wine cellar the bottles are turned to redistribute the substrates maybe once or twice a year. If your wines are stored near to a refrigerator or an area with high foot fall, this can also cause vibrations which over time can actually lead to the wine separating out into layers of heavier and lighter elements which will limit the reactions that can occur inside the bottle.
Wine is best left untouched until you are ready to drink it, it’s best to avoid any movement if possible.
Too Much or Too Little Moisture – Humidity
If you are storing wine, the humidity level should be considered as depending on the room and ambient temperatures the relative humidity will be different.
The reason the humidity is important is for two reasons but primarily because of the cork. The cork is a natural material that lives and breathes and needs a humidity level of between 55-80% otherwise it will begin to dry out. By keeping the humidity level between these ranges, there is enough moisture in the air to keep the cork moist and in a typical house or storage room the relative humidity will sit at around 65%.
If the cork does start to dry out then the wine will begin to oxidize as the cork will begin to shrink and won’t be as tight fitting, the wine will also leak out depending on the angle it is stored at as there will be small gaps around the cork.
On the flip side, air that is too moist can be detrimental to the value of the wine as mould loves humid areas – exactly like a wine cabinet! If some spores enter your wine cooler, then they tend to develop on and around the labels of the wine bottles which will drastically affect the value of the wine if the bottle has no label left – which is why you need to ensure your wines are stored correctly.
Avoid Nasty Odours
Storing wine in a kitchen isn’t the best idea, lingering odours can sometimes enter the bottle of wine if the cork isn’t completely snug. Some of these odours can interfere with the ageing process and can sometimes sour the wine.
Mould growth from excess humidity is prime culprit when it comes to odours, the mould leaves a musty smell in the air that is difficult to remove – if for example you have mould growth in your wine cabinet then this will be trapped inside the cabinet and you may not notice this for many years if the wine cooler is just ticking over.
Is A Wine Cabinet A Good Investment?
At Elite Wine Fridges, we have been distributing wine coolers for quite a long time, we know that failure to store your wines correctly can and will affect the quality of the wine. If you have purchased purely as an investment then the price you receive when you do eventually sell it can be determined by the method in which it has been stored – poor storage will equal a lower return on investment – if any at all!
A wine cooler is a good investment as they have an average lifetime of between 10-20 years, depending on the quality of the unit you purchase – There are Eurocave, Climadiff and La Sommeliere units that have been running for over 20 years with no issues whatsoever.
In the short term the investment will be high but the wine business is not a cheap industry and your wines deserve to be protected. Using ready-made wine storage and outsourcing to specialist companies is a good option but can be expensive and of course you don’t have easy access to your wines.
With a wine cooler you have easy access to your wines 365 days a year and the peace of mind that the wine cabinet will:
- Prevent any UV damage through utilization of a solid door or UV protected glass door
- Manage the humidity between 55-85% automatically, although there are units available where you can set the humidity level
- Store your wines in complete darkness
- Manage the temperature to between +/-2°C of the set temperature
- Remove and manage and bad odours through use of a charcoal filter
- Store your wines in a vibration free environment
Wine coolers are designed to mimic a traditional underground wine cellar, so you can be assured your wines are stored correctly which will protect your investment.