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How To Store Wine

How to store wine

A few weeks ago I was asked to assist in valuing a 1945 bottle of Moet et Chandon Champagne, so the first and most important question to be asked is – How and where has it been stored?

1945 was an exceptional vintage year for almost all French wines and this particular Champagne may still be drinkable if been kept in the most stringent of storage conditions, the value of just this one bottle could perhaps reach around £120-£150.00.

The answer to my question was not the best – “on the mantelpiece over the fire”. However a collector was interested and the price paid was £36.00, which under the circumstances was not a bad result. But it does prove that keeping wine in the right conditions is of paramount importance to the quality of your wine, whatever the reason.

So I have detailed here some basic factors for you to consider whether you wish to: 1] invest in wine; 2] Lay wine down for future drinking, or 3] just to drink on a regular basis.

Assessing Your Needs:

First you must decide upon the above 3 criteria what you wish to store wine for. If you mostly purchase wine for everyday style drinking then a modest wine rack will be sufficient. However it is fun to plan ahead and instead of ‘just buying when out shopping’ choose your wines with plenty of time to spare and study how much wine you can afford in advance. Then you can begin to build an interesting stock to enjoy at your leisure, replacing as you go and there are always good wine offers to be had for a volume purchase. Also look for wines that will improve with age, it is fun keep records of purchase and study the best times for drinking.

Storing Wine At Home:

Ideally a basement is ultimately the best, but not everyone has one so if you have a part of your home that is rarely used, then consider whether this could be utilised to create your ‘wine cellar’. A cupboard, small room or part of a garage, even an insulated garden shed may be feasible as long as it is protected from extreme temperature changes, and ‘visitors that may enjoy the labels for their comfort in winter’.

  • Places to avoid – close to: ovens; electrical equipment; hot water pipes and tanks; kitchens or areas that are subject to humidity, extreme light and temperature change.

  • Plan a suitable budget and work out your requirements, what wine for what purpose.

  • Leave room for impulse buying, so never fill your racks completely.

  • Separate your wines – everyday drinking – wines for dinner functions and entertaining – wines for future drinking as they improve with age, but always check the vintage and report as to the best time for opening. There is no point in keeping a wine ‘just for show’ if it past its best!!

  • Temperature: Constant and between 10 and 15 degrees C [50/59 F] Slow changes are not harmful, but extremes are detrimental. [Keep a thermometer in your cellar and check regularly]

  • Humidity: Between 60 and 80% is best. Anything above will not harm the wine in the bottle, but may damage labels and corks may dry out and shrink. This will allow air into the bottle and damage the wine – ‘Oxidization’.

  • Light: Dark places are best so the wine is not subject to light changes.

  • Ventilation: Air circulation will prevent stale odours.

  • Position: Horizontal with the wine in ‘touch with the cork’. This will prevent the cork from drying, so the wine will not become ‘oxidized’. For vintage wines of quality, when ready to serve return the bottle to an upright position to allow any sediment to settle.

Good wine is an organic product and requires attention so if you follow the above rules, you won’t be disappointed, and remember – never leave them on the mantelpiece!!

by Alan Hunter AIWS, 13th June 2012
Laithwaites 4 for £24