When storing wine, the aesthetics of the storage unit are really not that important. The critical factors to consider are temperature, light and humidity. The longer the wine is stored the more important these factors become. Poor storage conditions can render a wine faulty and negatively affect its flavor
For wines that are stored for just a few weeks the most critical factor is to avoid direct sunlight. If a wine is exposed to direct sunlight for any length of time it deteriorates. The color of the glass also has an impact. Studies show that clear glass bottles are most at risk. Therefore, avoid displaying your prized bottles in your brightly lit, all-glass kitchen or living room.
Temperature is also a key factor. Wine should be stored at a consistent, moderate temperature. Most temperature controlled wine storage units will be kept around 50-60 degrees F. A little higher is fine, in an unregulated temperature environment, but try not to store in rooms which are normally above 77 degrees F. This is why most over-heated New York apartments are not at all ideal for storing wine. If your apartment is your only option, try to find a cool, dark corner, such as at the back of a bedroom closet, well away from the primary sources of heat.
Wines dislike sudden heat spikes or sudden temperature shifts, preferring a moderate constant temperature. If a wine is exposed to a very warm environment, it evolves too quickly, the fruit fades and takes on a baked character. Heat-affected wines taste tired, dull and past their peak. As such, the kitchen is probably the worst room in which to store wine due to its generally wide temperature fluctuations
Icy cold conditions are also not ideal. So be equally careful of storing your wine in an ‘outside’ non-temperature regulated shed or out-house, especially during cold winter months, when freezing temperatures can cause your wine to freeze, corks to expand and pop out, or even bottles to crack.
Humidity is a third important factor, especially for wines under natural cork. In a very dry environment (like a New York apartment) the cork can dry out and allow oxygen to creep in and damage the wine. That is why it is recommended to store wine bottles horizontally, or downward at an angle, so that the cork is kept moist. This of course is less of an issue with wines bottled under screw-cap.
So how important is all of this, if you are only storing wine for a few weeks at a time. In reality, not so important, depending on the robustness or delicateness of the wine. However, we all do want to drink our wines in top condition.
Having perfect storage conditions, becomes really important, if you buy expensive wines that need time to evolve before drinking. The last thing you need is to find, a few years down the road, your expensive wines are tasting cooked, oxidized or have completely faded. If you do have age-worthy wines, and your apartment is not an ideal storage environment, it is worth considering investing in some sort of temperature controlled storage unit, or storing your wines elsewhere.
In our house we use a mix of storage conditions. A temperature controlled wine fridge for our best wines and the rest laid on the side in dark, quiet corners of the bedroom and study, away from light, heat and vibrations.
Great Summer Wines
• 2009 Hewitson Lulu Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, Australia, $14.99 – Racy, bright citrus fruit, gooseberry with hint of ginger. Lovely lighter style of Sauvignon. The Adelaide Hills is becoming quite the place for Sauvignon Blanc.
• 2008 Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay, Limari Valley, Chile, $12.99 – Fantastic value Chardonnay that tastes so much more expensive.
• 2008 Chateau Graville-Lacoste, AC Graves, Bordeaux, $20 – A bit on the pricey side, but worth the extra for this elegant wine. Lots of bright citrus and apricot fruit, grassy notes and hints of toasty vanilla and spice.
• 2008 Allegrini Valpolicella, Italy, $10 – Fantastic light summer red wine. Fresh, youthful and packed with juicy ripe red cherry berries. Serve a little chilled.
• 2008 Porcupine Ridge Syrah, WO Coastal Region, South Africa, $9.99 – What a great value wine. Packed with sweet ripe fruit mingling with earthy, leather, peppery notes. Long finish.
• 2008 Tabali Reserve Especial Pinot Noir, Limari Valley, Chile, $17.99 – Intense ripe dark sweet cherry fruit, with attractive earthy, smoky notes. Smooth texture.
Until next week, enjoy!
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Wine storage solutions courtesy of Wine Enthusiast; Bottle shots from individual wineries.)