Whether you prefer a crisp dry white or a fruity red, we all enjoy a glass of wine now and then. But, if you want to take your wines a little more seriously, save a good bottle for a special occasion or even start a collection, then the first thing to consider is the best ways to store your bottles.
We’ve all seen wine cellars on TV, with row after row of bottles, all carefully laid on their sides, gathering dust and improving with age. But for those of us with slightly less space – there are simpler ways to begin.
You may not be planning on buying bottles for investment purposes. Even saving a good wine for a special occasion means thinking about where to keep it in your home.
Some wines do improve with age. Over time the flavour can develop, but how long that takes depends on the grape. You can’t assume that two cabernets from different vineyards will both need the same amount of time. Some make take just 6 months from bottling but are ruined if left too long, while others can be left for 20 years. It’s important to research your chosen wine and if necessary ask the vineyard for advice. Of course, for a wine collector, this is all part of the fun.
It’s commonly know that wine should be stored on its side – although this actually only applies to corked bottles. Synthetic corks and screw top bottles can be left standing, as can champagne. Storing a bottle on its side keeps the cork from drying out, which allows air into the bottle and damages the wine.
The warmer the wine, the quicker it matures. It’s best to keep the temperature as stable as possible and at around 10-13°C. Overly hot temperatures can ‘cook’ your wine, leaving it flavourless, while swinging temperatures causes the liquid to expand and contract, and may push the cork out completely.
Bright sunlight degrades wine – hence why many vineyards use coloured glass. Low lights, or darkness is best, if possible.
The aim for long term storage is to keep the cork from drying out. A little humidity in the air can be a good thing – but at the same time, you don’t want to damage the label on the bottle, particularly if you are keeping the wine as an investment.
A few simple tricks can help to preserve your label – either cover them with clingfilm, or try spraying them with unperfumed, strong hold hairspray. Use a dehumidifier for very damp cellars. Or, if your storage area is overly dry, just leave a pan of water out to keep the air moist.
If you are lucky enough to have a cellar, you may already have everything you need. No sunlight, naturally cool temperatures and, hopefully, not too much damp in the air. But, if not, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a computer controlled sealed unit.
If you are planning on keeping wines long-term – over 10 years or more – you may want to consider more serious storage options. But for the average household, there is no doubt somewhere in the house you can commandeer.
Kitchens and rooms with dryers in have changing temperatures, but a small closet or the space under the stairs might be perfect to put a small wine rack in, out of the way of daily use.
Another option is a wine cooler. Kept in a cool room, the annual running costs shouldn’t be too high. Or, if you need a little more space, a small self storage unit could be an option. Indoor lockers are dark, secure, unlikely to be heated, and some can provide the electricity you need to run larger wine coolers.