For any wine lover, storing wine well is very important. There are a few simple principles that need to be understood in order to select proper wine storage conditions. We can logically break down the process into just 3 categories: storing wine for the short haul, storing wine for long term aging and storing (or saving) wines that have already been opened.
Short Term Storage:
This is wine you will consume within 6 months. These may be bottles that are just home from the store and destined to be consumed shortly or bottles that have been pulled from longer storage to be accessible for spur of the moment consumption.
The closer you can duplicate the conditions required for long term storage, the better. However, in many situations, keeping the wines in a box in an interior closet is a satisfactory solution.
Keep the bottles stored so that:
• the cork stays moist
• the wines are at the lowest stable temperature possible
• the location is free of vibration
• the location is not a storage area for other items that have a strong odor
Stay away from those little 9 bottle racks that end up on top of the refrigerator; it’s hot, close to the light and vibrates from the refrigerator compressor.
Long Term Storage:
This is wine that you will keep for more than 6 months before consumption. A good storage location for wine is generally dark, is free of vibration, has high humidity and has a low stable temperature.
Generally accepted ‘ideal’ conditions are 50 to 55 degrees farenheight and 70 percent humidity or higher. The high humidity is important because it keeps the corks from drying and minimizes evaporation. The only problem with even higher levels of humidity is that it brings on growth of mold on the labels or the loosening of labels that have water soluble glue.
Temperatures lower than 55 degrees only slow the aging of the wines. There have been wines found in very cold cellars of castles in Scotland that are perfectly sound and are much less developed that those kept at ‘normal’ cellar temperature. A near constant temperature is preferable to one that fluctuates.
With regard to light, most modern bottles have ultraviolet filters built into the glass that help protect the contents from most of the effects of UV rays. Despite the filters in the glass, long term storage can still allow enough rays in to create a condition in the wine that is referred to as ‘light struck’. The result is that the wine picks up the taste and smell of wet cardboard. This is especially noticeable in delicate white wines and sparkling wines. The condition can be created by putting a bottle of champagne near a fluorescent light for a month.
Regular or constant vibrations from pumps, motors or generators should be avoided since the vibrations they cause are thought to negatively affect the evolution of the wines. One additional factor to avoid is storing other items with very strong odors near the wine. There have been many reports of wines picking up the aromas of items stored nearby.
If you do not have a suitable wine cellar, there are many types of ‘wine refrigerators’ that will work as well. They differ from common refrigerators in that they work at higher temperatures (50-65 degree range) and they do not remove humidity from the air. There are kits available that will convert regular refrigerators into suitable wine storage units.