Do You Know the Top Environmental Factors for Proper Wine Storage?

tips for storing wine

There are only a few conditions that need to be met for proper wine storage, but each one is vitally important.

As you begin to explore new wines and wineries, you will invariably reach a point where wine storage becomes an issue you need to address. When deciding how you will store you wine, remember this: Wine evolves, in your glass or bottled in a rack.

Wine changes quickly in your glass, primarily due to exposure to air. In the bottle, wine changes far more slowly. Under the proper storage conditions, the changes a wine makes over time are so gradual, so minute even an expert can barely, if at all, discern the difference a year’s aging makes in a wine structured for prolonged storage.

Time may be good for the wine but, unfortunately, time also permits other variables to impact the maturation process of a bottle of wine. Our role as cellar master is to maintain control over environmental variables that can negatively affect a wine, sometimes ruin it.

Ideal Environmental Conditions for Wine Storage

To create the best environment for wine storage, we need to monitor:

  • changes in the air
  • vibration
  • fluctuating temperatures
  • light
  • humidity levels

How Air Affects Wine Storage

Letting wine “breathe” once you open the bottle helps flavor and bouquet emerge, but you definitely don’t want your wine breathing before you pull the cork. Air inside a bottle and long-term storage do not play well together. They are enemies. Air oxidizes- spoils- wine, rendering it vinegar in short order.

Nevertheless, you needn’t build your bottles a vacuum chamber. Air does not permeate glass, and a quality cork, natural or synthetic, prevents air exchange between the environment and the bottle interior year upon year.

The few cc’s of air bottled inside at the winery is perfectly normal; in fact, it assists proper wine maturation. However, there’s no need for additional air, and no appreciable amount of air will slip through the cork provided the cork’s integrity remains uncompromised. To keep a cork in top shape, store wine bottles horizontally. Moist corks keep the seal tight.

Wine Storage Should be “Vibration Free”

To mature best, wine should rest. Agitation riles the sediment and handicaps the aging of some of the wine’s components. Although vibration is the least of your concerns, if you are building a cellar in which to lay expensive wines, just below a railroad yard may not be the best location to choose. Note that the specialty wine coolers on today’s market invariably advertise themselves as “vibration free.”

Avoid Temperature Fluctuations Where Wine is Stored

The danger of vibration in long term wine storage is debatable; the danger of fluctuating temperature on stored wine is not. Corks shrink when they get to cold. Reds will age too quickly if they are too warm. A temperature range of 45-55F / 7C-13C is ideal for virtually any wine. Few of us are fortunate to have a cellar or dark closet whose temperature does not waver outside that narrow range. For most, the solution is to build a special air-conditioned unit or purchase a temperature controlled wine cabinet.

The rate at which the temperature rises and falls is almost as important as the rise and fall itself. As seasons come and go, the ambient temperature in a cellar will naturally rise and fall, but slowly. If your storage area experiences frequent, rapid changes in temperature, it will more or less cook your wine. Constancy of temperature within the ideal range is your goal for optimal prolonged storage.

Store Wine in Moderate Humidity to Keep Corks Healthy

Wine is best stored at approximately 70% humidity. When cellar air is too arid, corks fail: they crack, splinter, or disintegrate altogether, allowing air to creep inside the bottle, and wine to seep out, which fosters the growth of mildew and mold. Keep corks moist by storing bottles on their sides and by storing the bottles in an atmosphere of suitable humidity.

Low Light Conditions are Good for Storing Wine

The less light to which your storage area is exposed the better. Ultraviolet light, whether from bulbs or the sun, can cause your wine to stink—literally. Incandescent bulbs are preferable to fluorescent for a wine cellar, because they emit less ultraviolet light.

Although relatively few wine storage conditions need to be met, each one is vitally important.

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  1. Knowing and maintaining the right temperature in a wine storage is definitely one if not the topmost priority in wine storage. Thanks for the pointers!

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