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KEEPING WINE in a way that allows it to remain wine,
rather than transforming into vinegar, has been a chal-
lenge for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks, for
example, mixed wine with honey (sugar acts as a pre-
servative), poured olive oil on top of it (as a barrier to
air), and stored it in large ceramic amphorae buried in
the ground to keep it cool.
By the 16th century much of the wine traded through-
out Europe was heavy, heady and potently fortified
with brandy to preserve it. The base wine itself may
have come from any warm place along the Mediter-
ranean, from southern Spain to Crete. In many cases,
the origin did not matter; what was important was that
the raw wine be fortified sufficiently so that it would
still be drinkable when it reached England, Ireland or
Shakespeare wrote fondly of these formidable wines;
he called them "sacke".
Wine doesn't care if it is stored in an expensive cus-
tom-built cellar, in a damp basement or between shoes
in a closet as long as the following situations are pres-
KEEP IT COOL
Optimal wine storage temperature is around 55°F; ex-
cessive heat will wreak havoc on a bottle of wine. It
would make the wine age faster so it won't get as com-
plex as it might have and can also "cook" a wine until
the fruit character becomes blunted, resulting in flat
aromas and flavours.
However, you can live with 50°--57°F (10°--14°C). Hav-
ing too low a temperature will slow the wine's matura-
tion. You also want to shoot for consistent
temperatures, as dramatic temperature fluctuations
also negatively affect a stored bottle of wine.
Humidity is another factor to keep in mind when stor-
ing wine: a higher humidity level helps to keep the corks
from shrinking and allowing oxygen in, thus preventing
the dreaded oxidation of the wine. Ideal humidity is be-
KEEP IT DARK
Most coloured glass bottles of wine have UV filters in-
corporated into the bottle glass, but this does not nec-
essarily offer full UV protection.
If a wine is in direct light consistently, it will affect the
flavour of the wine significantly, a result of premature
aging. Typically, whites wines are the most sensitive to
light degradation, but reds will also lose flavour if they
are subjected to excessive light.
KEEP IT STILL
For whatever reason, the top of the refrigerator seems
to be one of those places that people naturally tend to
keep their wine. Maybe it's the convenience of it, maybe
it's that the cute wrought iron wine racks fit well there
--- but either way this is one of the worst places to keep
First there's the heat and the direct light, then there's
the risk of losing bottles out of the rack every time the
fridge is opened and closed, but there's also the vibra-
tion from the refrigerator itself.
KEEP IT SIDEWAYS
By intentionally storing a bottle of wine on its side, you
will help keep the cork in constant contact with the
wine. This will keep the cork moist, which should keep
the cork from shrinking and allowing the enemy of wine
--- oxygen --- to seep into the bottle. When oxygen
comes into contact with wine the result is not good ---
the wine starts to oxidize (think brown apple) and the
aromas, flavours and colour all begin to spoil.
While most of us don't have on-site rock walls, wine
caves or underground cellar accommodations for our
favourite wines, there are plenty of options to mimic
these primitive, but ideal, conditions. Since light and
heat destroy wine.
This is for wine that you will consume within six
months, or they may be bottles that are just home
from the store and intended to be consumed shortly,
or bottles that have been pulled from longer storage to
be available for spur-of-the-moment consumption.
Keep the bottles stored so that:
• the bottle is on its side so the cork stays moist
• the wines are at the lowest stable temperature pos-
• the location is free of vibration
• the location is not a storage area for other items that
have a strong odour.
If you plan to collect fine wines that will benefit from
additional bottle maturity (over 6 months), proper stor-
age is critical. Before choosing a space, be sure it will
be big enough to house future purchases. In some
cases, empty space beneath a stairway is sufficient, or
you may find it necessary to allow room for hundreds
of wines stored both as individually racked bottles and
You will need something that is temperature controlled,
manages humidity, protects from vibration and also UV
rays. Dark, cool, stable environments work best for
As you can see, you need not invest in any fancy cellar
to store and keep your wine in a drinkable form; wines
can be taken care of without too much expense. Next
week I will talk about aerating and decanting, and when
and why this is necessary with some wines.
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