Save Your Precious Wine!
Why bother storing your wine with care?
Many people go to great lengths to choose the perfect wine for a special dinner or other occasion. Typically, that carefully selected wine is for immediate consumption, so proper storage is not much of a concern - other than the obvious, of keeping it from getting very warm. The refrigerator, or a cool closet will suffice for these bottles of wine.
However, many folks also will stock up on a favorite they've discovered, or grab a great deal on a case of wine they've read great things about. These are less likely to be consumed in the near future - no one wants to drink a case of the same wine within a few months. And, maybe this special wine is a nice red that will only improve with age. Here's where proper wine storage comes in. A properly stored wine will likely improve, or at the very least maintain its drinkability, if properly stored. On the other hand, improper storage could turn this great find into a cooking wine.
First and foremost, wine needs to be stored at a cool temperature - and a stable temperature. Most importantly, red wines, in particular, should be stored at a temperature around 55 degrees. Temperatures below 50 degrees won't harm the wine, but will slow down the aging process. Temperatures too high can destroy a wine, in a matter of a few hours, in extreme cases. Less severe high temperatures over time can still ruin wine, giving it a "cooked" taste. So, our target temperature for red wines is around 55 degrees. With white wines, aging is less of a concern, so they can be stored at cooler temperatures.
Stability of temperature is also important. A few degrees of change over time, like one would find in a wine cellar through the changes of seasons - 5 degrees over a period of months - is just fine. But a temperature fluctuation of several degrees per hour is not such a good thing. Rises in temperature force a bit of wine through the cork, while drops in temperature cause a tiny bit of air to be drawn into the bottle. Obviously, if this occurs on a daily, or even worse, hourly basis, it's harmful to the wine. The greater the changes in temperature that wine experiences, the greater the premature aging of the wine from overbreathing. So, it's important to maintain a stable temperature.
The next most important factor in proper wine storage is humidity. Optimally, wine should be stored at between 50%-70% relative humidity. If the humidity is too low, the cork can dry out, and the wine may be ruined. If the humidity is too high, mold can develop on the label and/or cork. Obviously, too high of a humidity is not nearly as much of a problem as too low.
Light is also an important factor in storing wine. UV rays from sunlight and fluorescent lights can affect wine, and cause it to become "lightstruck", giving it an unpleasant taste. Red wines are typically bottled in darker bottles, but should still be kept out of direct light.
Vibration is also considered a factor in storing fine wines, although there is a fair amount of debate on this issue. The thinking is that vibration causes any sediment in the bottle to interact with the wine excessively, and should therefore be avoided. There have been no conclusive studies on this issue, so we consider it to be less of a concern than other factors. We recommend minimizing exposure to vibration where it's easily accomplished, but don't see a need for going to a lot of trouble to avoid vibration.
OK, so now what?
So, when storing your fine wine for more than a few months, you should find a way to keep it cool, keep it at a stable temperature, keep humidity fairly high, and keep it out of direct light. So how does one accomplish this?
If you happen to live in the north, in an area where actual cellars are commonplace, you may already be set. Real cellars - unfinished, unheated - those cool, dark, musty cellars found in older homes, actually work quite well. They are, after all, where wines have been stored over the millennia. However, if you're comfortable hanging out down there, it's not a good place for your wine.
As an alternative, there are a number of wine coolers available, over a wide range of prices, capacity, and features. You can read about recommended wine bottle coolers at www.WineCoolerReviews.com.
And, best of all, you can pick up a 12-bottle wine cooler for around $100 - not a bad investment to secure your precious wine until you're ready to enjoy it.
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