The consumption and collection of wine has been growing over the last few years. While more and more money has been going into wine as investment or for future consumption, questions about the wine’s history are asked. So the question often arises when it comes time to understand the provenance of a wine: How has this wine been stored?
This question is important, as it can mean the difference between euphoria and depression in the wine drinker. The glory of opening a beautiful bottle of perfectly stored wine, or the agony and letdown of opening poorly stored wine. That poorly stored wine that upon opening is nothing more than vinegar.
So what are the issues of how to properly store wine? The issues are: Temperature, humidity, lighting, cleanliness of the storage unit or facility, vibration, and the angle of the bottle in storage.
Temperature is relatively simple. The ideal temperature is between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature, the more the aging process can be retarded in the wine. Fluctuations in temperature, as long as they are not drastic, are ok, though not completely ideal. One does not have to worry that because the wine was stored at 63 degrees versus 56 degrees does not affect the provenance of the wine. As long as the fluctuations in temperature occur slowly, it is fine. However, the higher the temperature is in the storage facility, the wine can age more quickly.
The recommended humidity of a wine storage facility is 70 percent, though it is fine to be 10-15% above or below that level. Humidity of the cellar is important to the wine for a couple of reasons: the cork and the labels. If there is too much humidity (over 80% for example) the labels are susceptible to rot and mold, which can affect the value of the wine. If it is too dry (below 50%), the corks can dry out, which can cause the cork to shrink, increasing the likelihood of air coming in contact with the wine, which would begin an oxidation process, and ruin the wine.
Making sure that the wine is stored at a horizontal angle is important, as the cork will not dry out if the wine is in contact with the cork. Otherwise, the cork drying out can cause air to come into contact with the wine prematurely. Light can have an affect on the wine as well. Light will prematurely age a wine, cause it to be ruined. Florescent lighting can cause the most damage, and too much light can “turn" the wine.
Vibration can be another issue. The sediment in the wine can be affected, and can cause damage to the wine. So keeping the wine in a “vibration-free" environment is very important. Often times, the term “bottle shock" is used for wines that have been excessively jostled during the shipping process. Even in drinking a wine that has been shipped or brought from the store is often well served by waiting a few days to weeks before opening, allowing the sediment in the wine to “settle down".
Another factor to point to is how clean where the wine is being stored. Poorly ventilated, dirty, grimy facilities can have very negative affects. The label can get very dirty and will negatively affect the resale value of the wine, and poor ventilation can affect the taste of the wine, giving a musty component that is certainly a negative attribute!
All in all, the storage and care of wine is very important to the investment quality of the wine, as well as the potential enjoyment to the drinker down the road. There may be little else as disappointing in the wine world as opening a poorly stored wine that has turned to vinegar. However, when storage conditions have been appropriately kept, and the wine has been well cared for, the aging process happens the right way, and the beauty of that wine can be savored as it was intended to be when it was acquired in the first place.
Robert E. Enslein, Jr. , is Managing Member of Brix Wine Vault, LLC, a wine storage company based in New York City. Brix is a professional quality wine storage facility that serves individuals, retailers, restaurants as well as wholesale customers. Learn more at http://www.brixwinevault.com