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Tips For Properly Storing Your Wine In A Cellar

If you plan on collecting various vintages of wine for aging, knowing the correct way to store the bottles can make a big difference in the process. If stored incorrectly, wine will spoil; if you’ve invested a considerable amount of time and money in collecting, you’ll definitely want to keep your investment in a drinkable state.

There are three things that affect bottles of wine: temperature, humidity and light. If you plan on storing your wine in a home-based wine cellar, it’s important you know how these factors impact eventual drinkability. And make sure the wine you plan on storing is indeed one that will age well. Some wines are meant to be consumed right away, while others do well being aged.

Temperature. First and foremost is keeping your wine at a constant and correct temperature. This has been the topic of a lot of discussion among wine connoisseurs. The consensus is, however, that wine should be stored at between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius, with 11C being the optimal temperature for the aging process. Keeping wine at too high a temperature—more than 25C, may actually cook it and ruin the flavour.

On the other hand, keeping it too cold may cause freezing or expansion, which also wreaks havoc on the flavour— not to mention possible cracking of the glass or movement of the cork. So, oxidation happens quicker when the temperature is higher, while gases diffuse into liquids more rapidly with lower temperatures.

Humidity. While wine needs some humidity to keep corks moist, too much will mess with wine labels and you don’t want to be left with unidentifiable vintages that will affect resale, should you decide you wish to sell. Most experts suggest humidity levels of about 75 percent. Humidity is one of the main reasons wine should not be stored in a fridge. Refrigeration causes dehumidifying resulting in a drying out of corks. A savvy tip to keep the humidity level at an acceptable level in your wine cellar is to add about a half-inch of gravel to the floor and spray it with water every once in awhile.

Light. Strong light is not a friend to wine. Any kind of harsh lighting will react with the compounds in the wine, creating possible defects. White varietals are most susceptible to strong light which is the reason most are in dark bottles. If you’re able, you might want to consider storing white wine in wooden boxes in your wine cellar. This way you can make sure they’re protected from light.

Serenity is best

In addition to light, humidity and temperature, there are other things that could affect your wine storage. It’s wise to keep bottles of wine as stationary as possible, since vibration could also cause changes in flavour. Any kind of resonance of the bottles could speed up the aging process. Vibration has actually been proven to alter wine’s chemistry—especially in red wine. The more quiet and sedate the environment, the better your wine will like it. (And, in turn, the more you will enjoy your wine.)

Bottle placement

Most wine does best lying on its side, but some—like champagne or sparkling wine—do better standing upright. Most vintages do best lying sideways because the cork stays moist, as it’s in constant contact with liquid. But, instead of lying exactly horizontally, bottles are best kept at a slight angle letting the cork stay damp, but not saturated. An air bubble will form at the top, rather than in the middle of the bottle, which is preferable for slowing down aging and allowing oxidation to happen gradually.

The most ideal conditions

Either active or passive cooling happens in a wine cellar. Cellars with active cooling are well insulated and must be built suitably to house your collection. They have cooling systems that keep the air at just the right temperature and the humidity in the right range. Alternatively, passive cellars are best in areas where it’s naturally cool and somewhat damp, but do not have drastic temperature fluctuations. With an active cellar, maintaining a continuous, optimal temperature is relatively easy.

The don’ts

  • Don’t keep bottles near a stove, microwave or refrigerator;
  • Don’t keep wine near any heat source;
  • Don’t keep wine in an upright position;
  • Don’t keep wine in direct sunlight;
  • Don’t keep wine in harsh, incandescent lighting;
  • Don’t keep wine in a place where the temperature fluctuates.

By speaking with the experts at Lancaster Custom Cabinets and Closets, you’ll be able to get information on what kind of wine cellar would be best for your home and collection. They will be able to tell you more about passive or active cooling and help you design the perfect cellar for your needs. Give them a call today.

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