So my last post was about my wine storage system and my tracking system for wines. It is a less than perfect system that is put together on a budget. So after writing that post I decided to do further research on cellaring and then look at my system and see where I could improve it. After doing some research, I became a little scared for some of my wines! Anyway, here’s what I found.
The most important things to consider when storing wine are temperature, humidity, light and vibration.
Lets start with the simplest and get it out of the way. Vibrations can cause the chemical reactions in the liquid to speed up. There’s not a lot of evidence out there of significant problems with this. Avoid storing your wine over a train station or somewhere that you find major vibrations. Probably the wine saw plenty of vibrations on the truck from the winery to the store, or in your car on the way home. So while you should be aware of this and not shake your bottles it is not much of an issue. If they do get shaken it is likely to just mix up the sediment, so decant them.
Light: UV rays can cause wine to age prematurely. This would be why wine comes in dark green bottles. If you have a clear or blue bottle, the wine is likely to degrade faster. Keep your wine rack away from direct sunlight and if possible use incandescent light near your rack to light it when you need to. Fluorescent light contains a small amount of UV that could damage the wine.
Humidity: The ideal wine cave in France will have a constant 60% relative humidity. In other places I have heard that 70% is ideal. Anywhere between 50 and 80% seem to be fine. In a wine cellar it is suggested to put gravel on the floor and sprinkle it periodically with water. In a wine closet or something similar a pan of water can help. You have to watch out for too much humidity also cause mold and you can use a dehumidifier to correct that. So why does humidity matter? Well if you are using screw top, or plastic or glass corks it doesn’t. Real cork needs to be kept from drying out. When real cork dries out it allow oxygen into the bottle and can cause accelerated aging. This is why we typically rack bottles on their sides. This storage method allows the wine to have contact with the cork and keep it wet.
Now the big one, Temperature. You don’t want it too cold, because if the wine freezes it will force the cork out and then you have oxygen exposure. On the other hand if it gets too hot you can “cook” your wine. This is the concern most of us have when waiting for a wine shipment (well at least I do in the summertime in Las Vegas with my wine traipsing in on a UPS truck at 5 pm!). In addition temperatures over 70 degrees will cause your wine to age more quickly. Ideal temperature is 45-65 degrees with a perfect temp of 55 degrees. And…you don’t want temperature fluxuations. This is why they use wine caves and cellars! Constant temperatures! This makes garages a bad plan unless you have a climate controlled garage (can’t imagine!) A basement works well…except we don’t have basements in Vegas. Ah well….now to take all I have learned and see how I can put it into practice!
My wine storage is mostly in our spare room. It is in a rack mounted to the wall in the closet. It does come close to an outside wall that gets sunlight in the late afternoon, but doesn’t get too warm. We do keep the blinds on the window opposite it open for the cat, but that window gets no direct sunlight. We keep the vent open for AC in the summer and close it so it gets no heat in the winter. We are in Vegas so it is dry. So….I will look into a curtain or door to put in front of the rack to provide a barrier to the window light. We may look into a means of keeping this room a little cooler and possibly a humidifier that can run in there at least now and then so the corks don’t dry out.
Our other storage is in the dining room in a small refridgerator. We have the temperature there adjusted to 55 degrees. These are typically white wines so we are not aging them and should be able to drink them before the corks dry in any considerable way.
On a side note, I do have a nice bottle of Dom and it is in that cooler. I will investigate better storage for that, but of course I don’t want to put it through temperature fluctuations! I did find in my research on Wikipedia that sparkling wines benefit from being stored upright. The trapped carbonic gas causes internal pressure and thus there is enough humidity to protect it from the oxygen. Champagne and sparkling wine corks tend to loose their elasticity after contact with the wine and then allow oxygen to seep in. So…I probably need to find a new storage method for my Dom to keep it from laying on it’s side!
So that’s what I’ve learned. Please feel free to share insights and updates! Goodness knows I’ve got several bottles that deserve to be aged and I don’t want to go wrong with them! Happy Cellaring!