Storing and Caring of Wine

The storing and caring of wine has changed over the years as consumption has become popular and more fashionable.

What was once primarily the work of wine merchants has evolved as grocery stores have started carrying different varieties. With more money going into wine, both as an investment and for consumption, the Arizona wine connoisseur will need to stay savvy about a couple of things.

Many starting out wonder how they can properly store their wine and take care of it at the same time. How you store your wine is extremely important.  Storing it just right it can lead to euphoria, while if you store it wrong it can lead to depression or at least a bad tasting experience. Drinking a bottle of wine that was poorly stored is much akin to drinking vinegar.

To properly care for your wine, you will need to meet several factors.  Most notably: humidity, temperature, and lighting.  The cleanliness of your storage area, the angle of the bottle while it is stored, and the vibration of the bottle on the rack should also be taken into consideration.   While Lowe’s or The Home Depot have a great variety of racks for sale, they are not all ideal for our climate.  Climate controlled units from a company such as the Wine Storage Depot are a must for the collector storing anything here in Arizona, especially over the summer.  

Temperature

Temperature is the most important thing to take into consideration for storing your wine.  You  should keep it around 50 degrees at all times. This lower temperature can help to age the wine, but more importantly, keeps the tannins from over developing. If the wine is exposed to too high a temperature (in excess of 77 °F (25 °C)) for long periods of time; it may spoil or become “cooked”, developing off-flavors.

The length of time a wine is at risk of exposure to high temperatures will vary depending on the wine.  Some wines (such as Madeira which is exposed to high temperatures during its creation) being able to sustain exposure to high temperatures more easily than other, more delicate wines (such as Riesling).

If there are fluctuations in the temperature, you should take care that it happens slowly. As long as the temperature doesn’t go to high and it fluctuates slowly, your wine should be okay.

When reading about keeping wine “at room temperature” it is important to remember that the writers are talking about a chateau in france, not the great southwestern desert.  Your wine should absolutely not be stored long term in your pantry or garage.

Humidity

There is a lively debate among wine experts about proper humidity.  One side argues that the wine in the bottle maintains 100% humidity, because it is liquid.  The other side focuses on ambient humidity and the dryness of the cork in the bottle.  The proper level of humidity for storing wine is around 70%.

While it is acceptable to keep it 10% above or below the 70% level, this becomes a challenge in Arizona. If you have too high of a humidity, the labels can rot or mold.  Which can affect the wine’s value, though usually not it’s taste.

More importantly for our desert climate here in Arizona, if the humidity gets too low, around 50%, the cork could shrink and bring air into the wine, which would ruin it in little to no time at all.   Some wine cellars are designed with gravel floors in order to have water poured out into them regularly. This keeps ambient humidity in check and may be worth consulting your contractor or architect about if you are having a cellar constructed.

Sunlight

Ah that beautiful sunshine!  While you may enjoy that beautiful Arizona sun, your wine storage most certainly does not!  You should take every measure to keep your storage area out of direct sunlight.  Delicate or light bodied wines are the most susceptible to light damage.  Though any wine in clear , blue or green bottles are at risk to damage from the sun. Light causes the wine to age prematurely, adversely reacting with the phenolic compounds, making it in your best interest to store wine in a dark location.

Other considerations for storing

The angle that wine is stored is important. If the wine stays in contact with the cork during storage, the cork won’t dry out.   Especially in our climate, the cork could dry out and allow air into the bottle.

To prevent damage to the wine from sediment, you should store wine in a location that is free of vibration.  Vibrations can shake the sediment around, which can ruin the wine by speeding up the aging process.  From Wikipedia:

“Although anecdotal information regarding the contributions of vibration in wine storage states that it contributes to the accelerated ageing of wine with adverse effects, this remains a research area with relatively little data. In a particular study, vibrations of different frequencies have been shown to have their own distinct effect on the chemistry of the wine.”

Storing and care is important to protect the quality and investment of your wine.  Storing it in a proper location will bring the best taste to the drinking experience. Do not wait years on a bottle to find it is gone to vinegar.  By following these tips you can have the best experience with your wine!