Certain wines must be aged to achieve peak quality. This statement is so prevalent in the general public’s consciousness that many consider it common knowledge. Most people also know that wine must be stored in a certain manner. Few people know the details, nor understand the actual science behind aging wine, which may explain why so many people underestimate the importance of proper wine storage. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a member of Vinum 55 so we’re preaching to the choir. You already know, understand and appreciate the art of aging wine. We’re writing this for those that don’t realize how vital proper storage is to the life and quality of your wine. Trust us- when you open that perfectly cellared bottle, it’s magic.
Maturing or aging wine is both a science and an art. A science, in that chemistry is the engine that drives the whole process. The individual reactions involved are well understood, predicable and clearly illustrate why proper storage is so important. But it’s also an art. Wine composition is so diverse and complex; each bottle reacts very differently. Therefore, it can be very difficult to predict the end result that aging will have on different wines. It can be just as tough to predict results among different vintages of the same wine. To make matters more complicated, taste is subjective. Some people prefer aged wine for their secondary flavors and prefer younger wine for their primary fruit flavors.
Despite doing everything in our power to age our wines perfectly, we are sometimes disappointed. A lot of this has to do with how our wines were handled prior to being in our possession. Trust us, we’ve seen how some wines are transported, it’s painful to watch. Unfortunately, what happened before it landed in your cellar is out of your control. At some point it boils down to luck. This, of course, adds to the mysterious allure of wine. One thing that we do have control of is once the wine reaches us, are we storing it properly? And what exactly does proper storage entail? There are six critical elements associated with storing wine.
- The ideal temperature for wine storage is somewhere between 11°C and 14°C (52°F to 58°F). When wine is stored in warmer temperatures, it can cause the wine to age more rapidly, and not in a good way, bringing out undesirable flavors in the wine. On the opposite end, when temperatures fall below the normal range, this causes the wine to age at a much slower rate. Although not ideal, this situation is better for your wine than the previously mentioned one.
- Temperature stability
- Wine must be kept in an environment where temperature is constant and stable. An acceptable level of temperature fluctuation is said to be about 2 to 3°C (5°F) around the average once per year. Temperature stability is the “holy grail” of wine storage. Besides humidity, it is the most important of the storage requirements, and at the same time one of the hardest ones to achieve. Maintaining constant temperature over time is even more important than the actual average temperature level.
- Humidity should be between 60 and 80 percent to maintain cork integrity. Cork is a natural product and will deteriorate with time. And yes, the cork will still dry out even when the bottle is placed on its side. Although the bottom of the cork is in contact with the wine, the top of the cork is exposed to the air and influenced entirely by the conditions of the air around it. If the air is too dry, the top of the cork will dry out, shrink, crack and allow more air to come into contact with the wine.
- Wine needs to be kept in an odor-free environment. Since some air will always get back into the wine through the cork, the molecules that make up that odor can, and will, get into the wine over time. Certain odors are fairly benign, others are quite harmful. Odors to look out for include solvents (fresh paint, cleaning solutions, etc.), or various aromatic food products like onions or garlic. Don’t store these around your wines.
- Wine should not be subjected to excessive amounts of light. Light, especially the short wavelengths, breaks down the complex molecules that create some of the amazing flavors that we love in properly aged wines. This is rarely a problem since wine is already well protected in glass that virtually absorbs all ultraviolet rays. Dark-colored glass absorbs most other light. Low-level lighting will not harm wine. One big rule- keep out of direct sunlight!
- What’s the point in having a cellar full of wine if your susceptible to loss or damage due to fire, theft or equipment failure? As collectors and enthusiasts, we invest a lot of time and money in our wine so naturally, we want to make sure it’s safe. As a professional wine storage facility, we offer high-end, commercial grade security with a sophisticated back-up system to protect your wines. All of our cellars are equipped with sprinkler systems and in the instance of a power outage, back-up generators are on our site within thirty minutes.
Even though we consider ourselves so much more than just a place to store wine, at the end of the day it is the base on which our company is built and we are very proud of that. Our goal is to give you the best all-around wine experience, and we believe that begins in the cellar. Rest easy knowing that from the moment your wine crosses our doors, it is given the highest level of care possible. When all is said and done, our hope is that we are able to eliminate some of the stresses that can come with collecting wine and allow you to focus on the fun part- drinking it!