Common Asked Questions on Wine Storage

Lesson Objectives:

Understand the elements to proper wine storage. Learn signs of a damaged bottle. Know your storage options if you do not have a wine fridge / cellar at home

Why is it so important to store a bottle laying down?

Storing the wine horizontally allow the wine to touch the cork, keeping it moist. When cork dries up, oxygen can attack the bottle thorugh its dry cracks, oxidizing the wine (turning it into vinegar).

Insider Tips: The criticality of having the label facing up

When searching for a wine, this would enable you to see the brand and avoid unneccesary flipping. This way, there is less chance of damaging the label.

But most importantly, all the sediments will form on one side. When serving or buying a developing / mature bottle, I like to look where the sediments are. It reveals bottle storage condition. The degree of sediments also advise me if decanting is necessary as well as make it easier.

Interesting knowledge: Sparkling wines can be stored vertically, standing up. Carbon dioxide in the sparkling bottle that will coat the wine, protecting it from oxidation.

Why is constant temperature important?

Like us, a wine prefers a comfortable environment where it can rest and sleep. Too hot, aging will be accelerated and flavors could be cooked. Too cold, certain aroma molecules and certain texture could be lost. The optimal storage temperature for all wines is 13°C or 55°F.

Fluctuation in temperature will damage the cork. The cork will shrink or expand with the change in temperature. This will let air comes into the wine and in the worst scenario, seepage could occur.

Practical knowledge: Before buying a mature wine, check for seepage. Check if the cork has popped up. Look under the cap to see if there are signs of wine leakage. Seepage implies the wine has gone through extreme heat and could very well be damaged. Avoid buying any bottles with seepage.

How can having a wrong humidity ruin a bottle of wine?

The cork will dry up when humidity is too low. Oxygen will attack the wine via the dry cracks in the cork, this will cause accelerated aging and potential oxidation. If storage condition is too wet, label could be damaged and molds could form on the cork.

Humidity in the range of 60-75% (ideally 70%) is recommended for proper wine storage.

How would exposure to UV and sunlight ruin a bottle?

Producers of long-aging wines have historically prefer bottles that come in a dark color. Having said that, there is no medium, a strong UV sunlight could not penetrate. The sunlight will destroy the organic compounds which give a wine its extensive aroma profile as well as its structure.

Practical tips: When building your cellars, avoid using fluorescent lights as they give off UV light. Opt for incandescent or sodium vapor lights.

What are hints that a wine could be damaged?

Color is usually the first hint. A young wine should never be brick or brown in color. This is sign of oxidation and heat damage.

Smell / aroma is another. Notes of sherry on a dry red is another sign of heat damage and unintended oxidation.

What are my best options if I do not have a wine fridge or wine cellar at home?

Find the coolest place and darkest place at home. It could be in your closet or under your bed. Avoid storing it near a fridge, or washer / dryer, or stove where fluctuation in temperature, heat, and vibration would ruin your wines.

Practical tips: Despite offering a cool environment, refrigerator is not a friendly place for wine storage. It is designed to cool food quickly, stripping away heat and moisture. The low humidity will dry up the cork causing unintentional oxygen attack. Its constant vibration will also ruin a fine wine.

Our final tips:

It all starts with a good bottle... it is important to avoid buying a bad bottle of wine. No matter how great the storage condition is, it cannot revive a damaged bottle.

In short, store your wines properly and track their maturity to avoid losing value on your wine investment!

If you are cellaring investment grade wines that could be auctioned off in the future, it is best to keep them in the original packaging (usually wooden cases) in a temperature monitored cellar. Do keep track of your storage history from purchase to sales. Wines with sub-optimal storage condition are often sold at discount.

Go to Lesson 11: Building a Wine Collection

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