Wine & The Elements

by Monica Bennion on May 11, 2011

DIGITAL IMAGEThere are a number of ways to store your favorite wines.  Wine cellars, wine fridges, basements or in the back of a cool, dark closet are just a few examples.  There are just as many ways to spoil your favorite wine, and we are not talking about breaking out the Waterford crystal.

Whether you plan to age your wine for ten days or ten years, there are a few key elements in ensuring your wine will remain in perfect drinking condition.

Heat is probably the number one element in spoiled wine.  “Cooked” wine happens when the bottle is exposed to high and fluctuating temperatures, even for a short period.  It is common belief that wine should be stored at a constant 55°F.  Even though this is tagged as ideal, the key is storing your wine at a constant temperature (preferably at or below 70°F).  Consistency in temperature will help ensure your wine remains intact.  Avoiding fluctuating temperatures is also important.  A regular change in temperature (+/- 5°F or more) can lead your wine on the fast track to being cooked.

Humidity goes hand in hand with the element of heat.  It is recommended to keep the humidity of your storage area relatively high (60%-70%) to avoid the drying out of the corks.  Storing wine on its side also helps the corks from drying out and breaking down.  Too much humidity however can encourage mold growth and cause labels to peel away from the bottle.  Again, consistency is key.

Light is another element that can damage your wine.  Light includes both natural sunlight and fluorescent lighting.  Most red wines are bottled in dark glass, helping to protect against UV rays, but even this is not enough, and white wines aer even more vulnerable.  To avoid any light getting to your bottle, you can store your wine in windowless room, in a box or lightly wrapped with a cloth.  If you store your wine in a wine fridge with a glass door, make sure it is not exposed to constant light.  And use the light in the fridge only when selecting a bottle.

Vibration is an element that is not often discussed when storing wine.  It is recommended that your wine be moved as little as possible, and even the tiniest vibrations can negatively affect your wine.  Vibration includes heavy foot traffic in the area of storage, long periods of constant travel and motors/generators.  If you store your wine in a wine fridge, make sure that it is level and that the motor is in good operating condition.

Not all wines are made to age for great lengths of time (10 or more years).  Even if you have done your best to store your wine in perfect conditions, a bottle that has gone “over the hill” is still a spoiled bottle.  To make sure you drink your favorite wine before its “time”, talk with the winemaker or his crew and ask for their input on how long they believe the wine will age.

With the variety of elements that can wreak havoc on your wine, it is best to have a good plan in place before purchasing large amounts of wine to stock the “cellar.”  For those fortunate to have a cellar or basement, you are pretty much set.  Both are relatively controlled with regard to heat, humidity, light and vibration.  For those with a place to house a large wine fridge, the investment is often worth the money, considering the cost of the wine you are investing in.  Another great place to store your wine is in the back, on the bottom, of a cool, dark closet.  I’ve seen some closets that are bigger than my cellar, so clear out the shoes and make way for the wine.

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