Wine Storage

Wine, like all things on earth, will change with time. It is important to control the rate of change and the type of change occurring to produce desirable changes rather than harmful ones. The variables that must be controlled are air, temperature, light, vibration and humidity.

Excess air will spoil a good wine faster than anything. It causes wine to age much too quickly, oxidizing and losing freshness. Before long the wine will turn to vinegar. Fortunately it isn't necessary to build a vacuum chamber, glass is impermeable to air for centuries and a good cork will keep air exchange to a minimum for many years.

There is obviously some air in the bottle to begin with and this is a good thing because it is essential to the proper aging process, and corks can eventually go bad. Keeping wine bottles stored horizontally will help keep the cork moist preventing cracking or shrinking which admits unwanted air.

To keep corks properly moistened, store wine at around 70% humidity. If the humidity is too low the cork will dry and crack, if it is too high it will encourage growth of mold and mildew which can injure racks, casks and spoil cork tops.

More importantly, proper temperature will keep corks from shrinking when too cold and wine from aging too quickly when too warm. In a cellar of 25% whites and 75% reds, 45-55F (7C-12C) is preferred. While some areas are blessed with natural conditions in this range, many will require some type of refrigeration unit. For small collections a wine cabinet can be purchased.

Nearly as important as the temperature is the rate of change in temperature. A ten degree change over the course of a season is harmless, but frequent and rapid changes can severely damage wine, even when stored within the desired range.

The higher the storage temperature the faster a wine will age. Colder storage areas will slow the aging process, so be certain to adjust for the type of wine stored.

Light exposure must be kept to a minimum. While modern bottles have good UV filters, some can still penetrate which leads to a condition called 'light struck', which is given away as an unpleasant aroma. Incandescent bulbs will produce less ultra violet light than fluorescents, so the former are preferred.

Vibration will interfere with aging, and will stir up sediments and in some cases can cause racks to deteriorate faster. Try to avoid moving bottles until they are ready to be served.

Bottle size also plays a small part. A large bottle has a smaller ratio of air to wine. Purchase or use larger bottles whenever possible. Once a bottle has been opened transfer the leftover wine to a smaller bottle if the remainder isn't consumed within a few days.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

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