How to store
Most wine is made to be drunk within a year or two of the vintage and most of us consume what we buy within days of purchase, what benefits are there in storing wine for future consumption and how do you do it?
The more I learn about wine, the more I’ve understood a big part of enjoyment is waiting for the right moment to drink it. Trying a joyous bottle of Leoville Barton 2003 in 2008 and a rather lackluster one in 2017 meant that from the first sniff of the second bottle, they were not the same. The wine had changed and had acquired a bitter, sour, tar-like taste – all flavours had gone!.
This wine was either stored incorrectly or time had finally caught up with it. In truth it was the fault of the owner! Incorrect storage had aged this wine prematurely.
3 golden rules for storing wine
Wine is a simple product. Remember just one thing. It’s organic!
Whether its that bottle of ‘05 Chateau Pavie or a plastic bottle of table wine, it will begin to breakdown as soon as the wine comes into contact with oxygen: changing the character and structure of the wine, robbing it of any vibrancy and character!
So good storage is essential. Store your bottles horizontally, with little humidity (ideally 65-75%) (email me for further details) – to help stop the cork from drying out and exposing the wine to oxygen. Keeping the bottles out of direct sunlight and a cool and stable environment is also important. The wine should be subject to as little movement as possible.
Temperature and humidity
Avoid storing wine where there are widely ranging daily temperatures. The recommend temperature is 10°C-13°C (50°F-55°F). Bottles with natural cork should always be stored on their sides so the wine touches the cork and keeps it damp and swollen. Bottles stoppered with screw caps or synthetic ‘corks’ can be stored at any angle. Champagne bottles can also be stored upright.
Vibration can shift the sediment in the wine, resulting in a gritty texture. Make sure to avoid dropping the wine, or moving the crates or shelves suddenly.
Strong light can adversely affect the taste of wine, particularly sparkling wine, and particularly if the bottles are made from clear or pale glass.
So…. If you live next to the railway line and have your wine stored next to the radiator and you have dual aspect windows…. You’re in trouble! Follow all the points above and you’ll be safe!
Which wines can I store?
Although there is no definite answer, 90% of wine is not meant for “cellaring” or storing for extended amounts of time. Shelf wines are intended to be consumed while fresh and young in the bottle. Wines that do improve with age must have a higher degree of concentration of fruit, more body and higher levels of natural preservatives and tannins.
The best red varieties that age successfully are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese
The natural preservatives help keep the wine fresh, whilst the tannins gradually soften and the colour changes The bouquet and flavour of fine wine has many nuances and layers of complexity that really make it worth the wait.
When is the right time?
Because of the high tannins, it’s not uncommon for some Bordeaux’s to last up to 35 years and take up to 10 years to be at their best! It really it all depends on the original quality of the wine, the storage and even the size of the bottle.
How to tell if your wine has spoiled?
Look out for a change in the colour of the liquid (usually a cloudy appearance) or a dusty settlement in the bottom of the bottle. If these things are going on in the bottle, then it has most likely gone bad and the taste will not be pleasant!
Storing wine that has been opened
The best way to store an open bottle of red wine is to replace the cork and put it in a cool, dark place or re-cork after every glass.
Buy a wine preserver. This sucks all the air from the bottle, reducing oxygenation and extending the lifespan of your wine. (Up to a week. Put whites and light wines in the fridge, and keep reds and fortified wines in a cool, dark place away from light and heat. If you don’t have a cool, dark place like a pantry then your fridge is better than letting the wine sit out in a 70°F (21°C) room!
Life Expectancy after opening
In a cool, dark place with a cork, red wine will last 5-7 days. The more tannin and acidity the red wine has, the longer it tends to last after opening. So, a light red with very little tannin, such as Pinot Noir, won’t last open as long as a rich red Cabernet Sauvignon – but it wont last past a week no matter what anyone says.
Where to store
Whatever you do, avoid the places at home where usually there is spare space – usually the top of the fridge, or cooker or near the central heating boiler!!! If you are serious about wine you could buy an ‘artificial cellar’, a temperature- and humidity-controlled cabinet like a refrigerator or specially excavated ‘spiral cellar’. The more serious collector-investor will do best using a professional storage company.
And finally, wherever you choose to store your wine, don’t forget to make a list of ideal drink dates for your collection. If you miss their drinking times you may miss the wine at its best. And if you have followed these hints and tips – it would be a shame to miss the fruits of your labour and miss the best bit! Enjoy!
Over the next few months I’ll be putting some handy tips and advice on my website. Please go to my website to receive updates every time I post.
Something that you have been unable to answer yourself? Any advice on hard to find wines? Please ask away!