For those who really enjoy their wine, owning a cellar or having a decent storage space is often top of the list of things to set up at home. Considering how and where you place your bottles of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There’s a lot to think about, including what kind of wines you want to collect and how long you should keep them on the rack. Wines have varying shelf-lives and while some improve with age, the vast majority are best drunk within a shorter, 5 year period. Then there’s whether you prefer reds or whites.
If you’re buying wine in order to age it and improve the taste, the first thing you need to check is the label. This should have a recommended cellaring time printed on it. With a Chardonnay, for example, you’re looking at a period of one to five years at most. A good red Bordeaux, however, can be kept for between 8 and 25 years.
When it comes to the actual storage, there are four main factors to consider: Light, temperature, humidity and ventilation.
When storing wine for a relatively long period of time, light becomes an issue. Ideally, you want to avoid strong variation in both natural and electric light – that’s one of the main reasons that people with a cellar often use this area for storage. Prolonged exposure to UV light, for instance, can cause a wine to age prematurely. That’s one of the reasons why red wine is put in dark bottles rather than clear glass ones.
Another factor that can impact on the quality of your wine is the temperature. Here we’re looking for a kind of Goldilocks solution – neither to warm nor too cool. You want as much consistency of temperature as possible though small variations shouldn’t be a huge problem.
The standard for red wine is thought to be around 12°C but normally anything between 8 and 15°C is suitable. Because of its big variations in temperature, unfortunately, the kitchen is the worst place to store wine for any period of time.
When you’re storing wine, you also want to maintain a stable humidity. If the air is too dry, your corks could dry out; too damp and you become susceptible to problems such as mould and mildew. That’s why you need to be careful when choosing a cellar to store your wine particularly if the levels of damp are difficult to control.
It also pays to make sure your storage area has a good level of ventilation. This can help maintain a constant temperature but also regulate the humidity. It prevents the build-up of strong odours too, which can impact on the integrity of your wine over time.
Storing Bottles On Their Side
The biggest issue with storing wine is ensuring that the cork doesn’t dry out – if this happens, the cork can shrink and oxygen will get into the wine. That’s why most bottles have traditionally been placed on their side.
There has been another school of thought in recent times, however, that storing wines at an angle is much better for them. This makes sure that the cork is exposed to both the small pocket of air in bottles and the wine itself. Some experts say this is better for the wine and can prevent oxygen from being drawn into the bottle if there are significant changes in temperature.
Finally, if you buy red wines that have a sediment you’ll want to choose a location that has as little vibration as possible so that this doesn’t get disturbed.
A lot, of course, is going to depend on the space you have available and the kind of wine storage you want to create. Most of us, particularly in modern homes, don’t have large areas in which to create a proper wine storage facility. The key is finding a space that fits all the above requirements as closely as possible and which you still have room for.