Most homeowners don’t have the space or resources to design and maintain a storage system to seriously collect and age wines, but can still achieve ideal conditions by improvising with a cupboard, closet or small section of the basement. Here are some tips to consider.
The goal: Consistency of temperature and avoiding heat.
The two most important aspects of temperature when storing wine is avoiding heat (especially for reds), and ensuring the temperature does not undergo major or sudden fluctuations. Wine kept in warmer conditions will age more quickly than you want it to, become flat, and change its colour and clarity.
The ideal range for wine storage is 10c – 15c, and since your kitchen fridge is cold enough to keep food safe, it’s too cold to keep wine for long periods of time.
Humidity and quality
The goal: Limited humidity and good ventilation.
Wines do benefit from some humidity as they develop, with the ideal range between 50 – 80 per cent. Over-humid conditions won’t generally affect wines that are properly sealed, but the labels could peel and become mouldy. Depending on the season, a humidifier, or dehumidifier, can help you reach the optimum level of humidity.
Lack of proper ventilation turns the air stale and musty, which could penetrate the cork and negatively impact the flavour of the wine. As well, the cork can absorb odours from chemicals or other items stored nearby.
The goal: Total darkness
All forms of light can cause problems for long term storage of wine. UV rays from the sun can especially degrade and age your wine before its time. Coloured glass bottles offer some protection from this. When choosing your space, remember as a rule: the less light, the better.
The goal: Total stillness
Many people believe that vibration can damage wine by speeding up the chemical reactions in the liquid. Store your wines away from household appliances to avoid subtle, but constant vibration.
Arranging the racks
Should wine be stored n the side, or standing up?
The goal of storing wine on its side is to keep the cork from drying out which allows air in and spoils the contents of the bottle. Side storage is generally the most space efficient, and can still be used, however, wines that use plastic/metal stoppers or screw caps should be stored upright to avoid possible leakage.
White and sparkling wines go on the lower, cooler shelves of wine fridges, with reds stored on the shelves above, where it is often slightly warmer.
Self-contained storaget Tips
Wine coolers are designed to maintain a constant temperature, but some are often better suited to serving rather than storing the wine. There is a wide variety available, and as with many purchases, the more you spend the more features are included. Some units have tinted glass (to manage light exposure), humidity controls and even duo temperature zones to store reds in one area and whites in another. As well, in addition to the traditional compressor-based coolers, thermoelectric coolers – which don’t produce vibrations – are another option.
By Paula McKee