Ageing Gracefully

How do you prevent your wine collection from becoming a vinegar collection?

Most wines, including most Non-Vintage Champagnes, are sold ready to drink so there is no reason to store it for a long period of time. For the really fancy stuff you may need to wait a little or sometimes maybe even a lot. We all know that cellars make for great long term storage, but why? What actually makes for good storage and why is it important to store wine properly?

Wine is a complicated mixture with quite a few components floating around inside. With time, they change and these changes are reflected in the smell and taste of the wine itself. Variables other than time will affect how your wine develops and the correct storage conditions we highlight below will ensure that the flavour profile develops in a balanced and harmonious way. Let’s have a look at the key conditions for proper storage, in order of importance:

  1. Temperature

  2. Humidity

  3. Position

  4. Lighting

  5. Vibrations

  6. Odours

1. Temperature: The ideal temperature for storage of all wine is 10-15 degrees Celsius. Just as important as the absolute temperature is variation in temperature. Less variation over short periods of time is better. A few degrees variation over the course of the year is fine, a 5 degree swing every day is very bad.

2. Humidity: A humidity of 70%+ is required to keep the corks from drying up. This is important as dry corks shrink and may cause extra air to enter the bottle and ruin the wine.

3. Always try to store bottles horizontally. This further ensures that the corks remain moist and do not dry up.

4. Wine does not like light, especially sunlight. It speeds up the ageing process in an unbalanced way and is the reason why most bottles are dark green. Try to keep your bottles in a dark place.

5. Vibrations also contribute to accelerated ageing by unsettling the components of the wine. For this reason you want to keep the bottles as still as possible.

6. The cork of the wine is actually porous. When moist, it is designed to allow just the right amount of air in to age the wine. Strong odours can be absorbed by the wine over time and alter the flavour.

Tying all of these together, we’re looking for a cool, humid, dark place with few vibrations and no strong odours. A cellar is always best long term, but let’s discuss some alternatives. Specialised wine fridges can be very effective. Look for ones with a carbon filter for reduction of odours, wooden shelves for vibration reduction and a solid door. Solid doors keep the inside dark and the temperature more constant. Glass doors are mostly for displaying wine before it is served or for short term storage.

Let’s also discuss some commonly used places for storage which are not recommended:

  1. Kitchens are no good. They are usually well lit, warm and full of odours.

  2. Garages may be alright for short periods of time, but if they are not insulated the temperatures in the summer may ruin the wine.

  3. Utility rooms will be too warm and may suffer from vibrations when washing machines are in use.

Basically, anywhere that is not constantly cold, dark and humid is going to cause issues over the long term! Wine fridges may be expensive but they are really worth the investment if you have a small collection you would like to preserve for a long time. For large collections, professional storage will be more appropriate and cost-effective.

We hope this was a useful guide for how to store (and not store) wines.
Let us know in the comments below!