The Essentials Of Proper Wine Storage
Wine storage is a concept and a practice that takes on the form of something like a prayer when it comes to wine connoisseurs. Why? Because it is in a way, a sacred precept that must be taken to heart if you indeed value your precious collection of wine bottles. So let’s delve deeper into the subject and tackle that simple but significant query: “Why do we need wine storage?” I believe a little historical trip would give us a better grasp of the matter.
Wine storage originated way back in the olden days, just some time after wine was introduced to the European continent with the flourishing of the Greek civilization. If you’re a Greek mythology buff, you’d probably remember a number of passages describing wine from gems like the Iliad and the Odyssey. Basically, wine storage began in the underground caves of Europe because these caves have been noted to provide consistent storage conditions.
Aging wines gracefully…
Now we are all quite familiar with the idea that “wine tastes better with age” which would explain the birth of those similes and metaphors, “aging like wine” or “aging as gracefully as wine.” But in order for wine to age at an elegant pace, maintaining the right storage conditions is nothing short of indispensable which is why we must take a cue from the origins of wine storage back in the European caves of ancient times.
“Cool and humid” are the two conditions that should always come together to create the proper wine storage conditions. However, it’s not just about wine cellars being cool and humid. The ideal wine temperature ranges from 55 – 58 degrees coupled with 55 – 75% relative humidity. When your bottles would be faced with extreme fluctuations in temperature and environment, it’s completely destroying the liquid inside!
The aging of wine has something to do with its “breathing” process. Yes, wine breathes through the cork and it is this “breathing” that brings about the aging of the wine. When the storage conditions are not met in a wine cellar, you can expect that the aging process will be unduly hastened resulting to unsavory results. For one, excessive oxidation will occur leading to your wine becoming bitter. Case in point: try leaving a glass of wine in the dining room or kitchen overnight and drinking it the following day. It’s not the best taste sensation you’ll come across!
The oxidation process should be regulated accordingly so that the wine’s “breathing” pattern will be kept at the proper pace, allowing it to age gracefully and attain its peak taste. A point to always keep in mind: the pace of breathing of wine is faster with high temperatures and slower with low temperatures. That being said, investing in a good vapor barrier and wine refrigeration cooling unit are two things one should never scrimp on when building a wine cellar.
And achieving the best of flavors!
Did you know that wine expands seven times more than the glass bottle it is kept in? Expansion occurs when the temperature rises and pressure is applied forcing the wine out of the bottle. But when the bottle cools, a vacuum forms, which then sucks oxygen rich air into the bottle. We call this oxygen-free air inside the bottle as “Ullage.”
Fluctuations in wine cellar temperature are best regulated by three important factors:
- The location of your wine cellar
- A good quality wine refrigeration or cooling system and vapor barrier
- The material and structure of your wine racks
Indeed, where you build your wine cellar will determine just how much you need to control the environmental and temperature fluctuations affecting your wine bottles. It can also affect the kind of wine refrigeration or cooling system you’ll need as well as the vapor barrier to be installed. Last but certainly not the least, your wine racking system can also spell the big difference between just keeping your wines and actually “storing” them the right way.
Written by: Cynette Montoya is a wine writer for Wine Cellar Innovations a company that creates unique wine racks for residential homes and commercial wine stores. Their custom wine cellars and wine racks can be found throughout the United States and featured in HGTV, Robb Report, Wine Spectator, PBS, and more. She loves writing about wood wine projects, cellar art, and more on their wine cellar blog. Find them on Facebook and Twitter and say hi!