Proper storage of your wines can go a long way to ensuring a pleasurable taste experience when you are ready to enjoy a glass. Here are five tips to get you on the right track for preserving your fine wines.
“Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over…”
Those who are old enough to remember Don Meredith in the early years of Monday Night Football will recall him singing that famous line near the end of most every game. It was basically a sign that the winner of the game had pretty much been determined.
Well, turning out the lights is also a good sign for your wine. Light is an enemy to the preservation of good wine. Being subjected to direct light will speed up the aging process, causing the wine to mature too soon.
Many wine bottles today feature UV filtering qualities, however, it is most often not adequate enough to fully protect your wine. To assure the best flavor, store your wine away from light sources, especially direct light.
To solve the light problem, you might consider investing in a small wine cabinet. If you do so, be sure to check the doors for a good, light-tight seal when it shuts. Place a flashlight (turned on, of course) inside the wine cabinet and close the cabinet door. Check around the edges of the door for light escaping from the wine cabinet.
“A Bit Of Nip In The Air”
Years ago, in late fall, the weather would start to change and the temperature would begin to drop a bit. You could always count on my granddad to say, “I feel a bit of nip in the air.” That’s also what your wines need to be able to say.
Wine needs to be kept cool. There seems to be universal agreement that, ideally, the best storage temperature for wine is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Wines that are subjected to high temperatures start to undergo oxidation, which results in speeding up the aging process. And, of course, accelerated aging is not desirable for fine wines.
Equally as treacherous as high temperatures is fluctuating temperatures, especially when the variations are extreme. This is more applicable to corked wines. To avoid these situations and provide the most advantageous control of temperature, a wine refrigerator will be quite handy, if your budget allows for it.
“It’s This Darned Humidity”
If you have ever had the pleasure of enduring summer in one of the southern states (United States), you may have heard this expression. And if you have ever tasted fine wine that has a bit off an “off” taste, you may be able to say the same thing about it.
Humidity, like temperature, is another factor to be considered in storing wine. A good humidity level for most wines is around 70%. As with temperature extremes, excessive humidity, particularly for corked wines, can lead to rapid aging through oxidation. Some humidity is necessary for corked bottles to ensure the cork doesn’t dry out and shrink, allowing oxygen to seep into the wine. This isn’t a factor for bottles using screw-type caps.
A good wine cooler unit will have a control for humidity as well as for temperature, allowing you to set it for optimal conditions.
“Think I’ll Go Wet A Cork”
My granddad was an avid fisherman. To “go wet a cork” was fishermaneze for “I’m going fishing.” It’s a good clich to have in mind for wine storage, as well.
This isn’t relevant for bottles of wine with screw-type caps. But for corked wines, it can be very helpful to keep the cork wet. When cork material gets dry, it begins to contract or shrink. When it shrinks too much, it can pull away from the lip of the bottle, creating an airway through which oxygen can seep in. The simple solution is to keep the cork damp.
This is the reason for the need for humidity discussed above. Storing wines in the proper humidity will keep the part of the cork that is on the outside of the bottle moist. But, what about the part of the cork that is on the inside of the bottle?
To keep the inside part of the cork damp, it is recommended that wine bottles be stored on their side. This will allow some of the wine to be in contact with the cork, maintaining its moistness and assuring an airtight seal.
Now, some folks argue that, since the wine is a liquid, the humidity inside the sealed bottle is always going to be around 100% and therefore, it isn’t necessary to keep the bottle on its side. There may be some merit to the argument however, why take the chance? My theory is – if in doubt, wet a cork.
“I Want You To Be Still!”
The sound of my mother’s stern admonition while sitting on a hard pew in church still echoes in my memory. She wanted me to be still. It’s what you want for your fine wines, also.
Vibration is your wine’s adversary. It keeps the wine agitated which prevents the wine’s sediment from settling. The constant movement of the molecules inside the bottle might also create a chemical reaction that can speed up the aging process.
If you are considering a wine cooler for storage, be sure to confirm that it has good insulation to protect your wine from the vibrations caused by the motor and compressor.
“That’s It In A Nutshell”
These are the five basics for good wine storage. If you don’t have the budget or space for a wine cabinet or wine refrigerator, consider putting your wines in a less often used closet. But, unlike the famous motel, try to leave the light out.