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
Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.
Sip of Wine
Wine Aging Table
Wine and Cheese
Wine and Health
British Columbia, Canada
Cotes Du Rhone