Cool, Calm & Collected
By Debra Meiburg MW
In some cities around the world, where every square cm is precious, it’s not easy to find storage space for wine. For most people, storing more than a few wine bottles at home is out of the question, which is fine as all but a handful of wines should be drunk soon after plucking them from the retail shelves anyway. But wine is a natural, perishable product, so care needs to be taken to keep it in optimal condition especially if you have long-term plans for your prized Lafite. When carefully stored, wines not only maintain their quality but many will improve in aroma, flavor, and complexity. What to remember about cellaring wine? Consider the following five “C” factors to keep your bottles in good cellar condition: cool, calm, constant, concealed and clean.
Keep it cool. Transport the bottle from shop to home as quickly as possible and avoid stowing your wine in a hot trunk or boot en route. Wines kept at too high a temperature will age faster than wines kept at a cool temperature, so once home, do not be tempted to store your wine in the kitchen – it is one of the least heat stable environments in your home. Placing a wine rack atop a refrigerator seems like a smart use of space, but fridge tops are treacherous for wine as considerable heat is generated by the warm tubing tangle on the back of the fridge and heat always rises.
Another reason to avoid storing bottles atop or even within standard refrigerators is the pulsating vibration. Vibrations might be good for the Beach Boys, but when it comes to wine, there is no such thing as “Good Vibrations.” Wine needs to rest. Vibrations agitate the molecules and oxygen trapped in the bottle, speeding the wine to an early demise. If you are the proud parent of teenagers, keep in mind that excessive sound can cause harmful vibrations as well.
Though much has been written about correct storage temperature, the actual number isn’t as crucial as maintaining a cool, constant environment. Fluctuation between warm and cool temperatures causes premature aging and triggers reactions that diminish a wine’s complexity and elegance. Scientists have proven that the yo-yo effect of fluctuating temperature can shorten a wine’s life by half.
Exposing wine to light is like lying on the beach without sunscreen – your wine will age prematurely. Champagne is particularly sensitive to light, which is why it is often sold sealed in individual boxes. Fluorescent lighting is notably unkind to your wine, so consider installing gentle incandescent or sodium vapor lights or use a black-out blanket to cover your bottles.
An odor-free environment is important because gases and smells can seep through the cork seal and contaminate the wine, which is yet another reason to avoid your refrigerator for long term storage. Also, keep the bottles clear of debris, such as untreated wood or food supplies, that could house insects, mold or larvae eager to infect your cork and avoid storing near fruits, vegetables and cheeses or any other foods capable of fermenting.
So where to store your wine? Other than a professional cellaring service, or a specially designed home cellar (spare rooms can quite be easily converted), the best storage option is a specially designed wine chilling cabinet, such as EuroCave, Transtherm or Vintec. If a wine fridge is out of the question because you already blew your annual bonus in the pub, then store your wine under the bed. Providing you don’t have a, uh, heated nightlife, the mattress provides an insulating effect to keep your bottles calm, cool and collected. And that should help with your “Z” factors.