Wine Storage

At one time wine-collecting was restricted to the rich, who would normally have storage in the specially constructed wine cellars in their homes. This wine was for the use of family and friends and not thought of as an investment. However, over the last century, even people with average or above average incomes have started to collect wines as they consider it may be a good investment. Investing in wine can yield a high return if one chooses the correct wines and makes sure they are correctly stored. The value of a good wine often increases substantially if it is handled with proper care.

Wine stored correctly can last for many years. When wine is found on old shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean, the wine is usually in very good drinking condition. This is because the wine has been stored in just the right temperature and humidity conditions without odors and movement in the environment. Wine can be very expensive, the price being dependent on its type, the country and region where it originated, as well as the age and condition of the wine. It is therefore important to secure your wine in a suitable and safe location to protect your investment.

The correct temperatures should be observed carefully both when you store wine and when you serve it. If you want your stored wine to age well the storage facility should be 56-58 degrees F. Organic esters give wine its distinctive flavor and the character of the wine is dictated by complex biological compounds. 56-58 degrees F is the temperature that is best to bring about the maximum number of good organic ester reactions and the least number of organic reactions which are liable to spoil the wine. This optimal temperature of 56-58 F ensures the maximum possibility of the wine aging well and having its particular fine taste.

If you observe the correct temperatures when you serve the wine, you will serve it at its best. Basically, you can take red wines directly from storage to serving, and white wines should be chilled in the refrigerator first. Below is a useful guide:

Rich, Red and full bodied wines should be served at 59 -68 degrees F
Light Red should be served at 54 -57 degrees F
Dry White, Rose and Blush wines should be served at 46- 57 degrees F
Champagne, and sparkling wines should be served at 43 -47 degrees F

Humidity If you have ever tasted wine that you thought tasted very bitter, this is because oxidation has taken place. This is why you must observe humidity levels as closely as you do temperature when you are storing wine. The optimal humidity level is 70% RH or higher as this will prevent cork shrinkage. If the cork shrinks, oxygen will leak slowly into the bottle and convert the wine to acid.

One can learn quite a bit about the contents of a bottle of wine just by examining it on the outside. If the wine in the bottle reaches a high level, you can assume that it is a new wine or a good wine of 5-15 years of age; if it is full only below the shoulder of the bottle, you will find that in all likelihood it is not drinkable. The level of the wine in the bottle will depend a lot on the age and type of wine, but it should always reach the upper shoulder of the bottle.

The term used to describe the gap between the cork and the wine in the bottle is “Ullage”. “Proper Ullage” is the optimum distance existing between cork and wine. Oxygen in the air destroys wine by causing oxidation of esters so that the wine becomes acidic, and it can even turn into vinegar which is acetic acid. It is therefore important in the storage of wine that the level of humidity in the storage unit will create water diffusion from the outside so that the cork will enlarge and no wine can escape, the diffusivity of water being greater than the diffusivity of wine. This is why the humidity levels should be maintained at 70% RH, and if the levels are below 70% RH the wine will leak from the bottle slowly as the cork will dry out, permitting oxygen to leak in. If the humidity levels are maintained properly the wine will not require re-corking for a long time.

Consumer products should always be properly labeled and wine is no different. It is therefore important to maintain the integrity of the label during storage, which is not always easy as the high humidity in the storage area makes it difficult to keep the labels intact and free of stains. Plastic protectors are on the market for the specific purpose of protecting the wine label. You can buy these and put them on the bottles prior to storage, but first check whether your storage facility supplies them as part of their service.