How to store wine
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WINE BASICS | 3 MIN READ
Centuries ago, wines were stored in caves or underground cellars in France for long periods of time before they were opened for merrymaking.
The simple reason is that wine requires the most ideal conditions for storage: dark, humid, still, and cool surroundings. This is obviously not ideal conditions to live in, but for wine, it makes a perfect accommodation to maintain it at its optimal state.
Dark and Cool Places
Therefore throughout the Middle Ages winemaking was heavily protected from invaders and, due to its religious importance, vineyards tended to be planted around churches. The Roman Empire was home to great technological advances that led to huge improvements in the quality of wine, such as wooden barrelling, but it was the Christian monks here who actively sought to produce fine wine and gradually gathered great skills and knowledge in wine production. Famously the Cistercian monks in Burgundy started to study the soil and experiment with methods such as pruning, plant diversity and land selection.
Church of Marano di Valpolicella (Veneto area of northern Italy)
Cellars beteath the Church of Marano di Valpolicella
Basements make ideal wine storage facilities because they are dark and cool, and no sunlight penetrates their walls. If basements are not available as an option, keep your wine bottles in cool closets with the correct wine storage temperature levels. Consider putting your bottles in wine coolers or wine storage cabinets.
“The real interesting stuff is in the cellar and the attic”
Position Your Wine Bottles Sideways
Cabinets and coolers – which come in various prices and sizes — have internal climate controls for as few as a dozen bottles to more than 600, depending on the make and brand of the cabinet or cooler. Keep your bottles still and positioned sideways in your wine storage cooler or cabinet. Here are a few guidelines on wine storage before and after opening wines.
Assuming that you have kept your bottles in storage conditions that meet the mentioned requirements, you should be still be aware to place either the cooler or cabinet away from direct fluorescent lighting fixtures and direct sunlight, both of which cause wines to become light struck. This condition is why wines sometimes give off unpleasant smells after they are opened.
Choose Dark Bottled Wines
You may not have noticed this but there are wines that are contained in darker than dark bottles. This means the wines have better protection against UV rays. Some wine bottles have built-in UV filters in their glass but UV rays can be quite powerful enough to penetrate them anyway. If you aren’t able to keep your bottles entirely out of sunlight, wrap them in cloth or a box before storage.
Wines that are packaged in light green, blue or light colored bottles are highly vulnerable to any kind of light. Louis Roederer’s champagnes, for instance, are all wrapped in cellophane, especially its premium cuvee Cristal before being placed in corrugated boxes and wooden crates in basement cellars. Another factor in appropriate wine storage is temperature.
Keeping Wines at Their Ideal Temperature
While all wines must be kept in cool storage with a temperature of 55°F, red wine temperature is slightly higher than that of white wine. That said, you should store your red wines on the top shelf of your cooler or cabinet due to the rising of heat. Another factor to be considered in the storage of red wines is it should be in an environment that is vibration-free. That means your refrigerator should be ruled out as a storage option.
Red wines develop more amounts of sediment at a faster pace than white wines when their environments are disturbed, an obvious case of refrigerator doors closing and opening, rattling or shaking the contents inside. Proper red wine storage dictates that a bottle of wine which has already been opened be recorked or resealed with a stopper specifically designed for wine bottles.
Temperature Must Be Constant
Wine bottles that have been corked should also be stored sideways. Their corks will dry out and enable air to get in and spoil the wines if re-corked bottles remain stored in an upright position. Storing the bottle with the label side up makes it easier for you to spot any possible sediment that may be forming. Keeping wine cooler temperature constant is crucial as well.
If you must keep your wine for long periods of time, like over a year, refrigeration is required, especially for red wine temperature, since even cellars below ground may not prove cool enough. The temperature must not go beyond 75°F (or 24°C) since at this temperature, wine starts to oxidize. If you have various wines, the ideal storage temperature is 54°F or 12.2°C.
A drop in the wine storage temperature of 54°F will not damage your wines but it will slow down their ageing process. This temperature is preferable to that between 45°F and 65°F. Remember that when temperature rises, it forces the wine to go through the cork and cause air to be sucked back in. The more changes occur in temperature, the greater the risk that the wine suffers.
Why Humidity is Important in Wine Storage?
Old wine Bottles from the Castello di Verrazzano winery
Humidity is another storage element that significantly affects how to store wine and keep its quality. A certain amount of humidity is necessary to keep wine with corks from drying out while in storage. Even with bottles stored sideways, the cork still has one side exposed to air. When this happens, oxygen enters the bottle, fills ullage space and causes spoilage to the wine.
Excessive humidity damages wine labels that prevent their identification and decrease their potential value for resale. According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, humidity at 75% is ideal. Another wine expert, Tom Stevenson, recommends that wine should never be stored in refrigerators because they have dehumidifying processes for foods that pose a threat to wine quality.
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