Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Collector’s Corner

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

General Articles

To Protect and Preserve

For wine enthusiasts, there are few greater delights than enjoying a library wine that has benefited from years of bottle aging. Conversely, there is almost no greater disappointment than opening that same prized bottle only to find it has been ruined due to storage conditions. Similar to living things, wine responds to the environment in which it is kept. Following are some helpful suggestions to ensure that your wines taste as good, if not better, as the day you brought them home.

Maintaining a consistent, cool temperature is critical for cellaring wine. According to Tyson Stelzer, Australian wine writer and author of Cellaring Wine: do-it-yourself solutions, red wine should be stored between 50 - 60 degrees, while 50 - 57 degrees is considered best for white wines.

The easiest way to ruin a wine cork, and ultimately, the wine, is to let the cork dry out. By laying bottles on their side, and maintaining an adequate level of humidity, 70 to 80 percent, you can keep the cork moist. Humidity below 60 percent can dry out the cork and above 85 percent can cause mold to develop on the labels and bottles, making them unattractive, possibly unreadable, and could damage the wine.

Exposure to light produces chemical reactions in wine that cause it to deteriorate. While any light is undesirable, it is ultraviolet light that is the most damaging. Store wine somewhere where external light exposure is minimized, if not eliminated altogether, such as basements and cellars, provided wine is kept away from the furnace or hot water heater. Other locations include closets and closed storage areas toward the middle of the house where the temperature tends to fluctuate less.

Store wine away from stereos, TVs and large household appliances, such as washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers. As wine develops, chemical processes produce increasingly larger molecules that eventually settle to the bottom of the bottle in the form of sediment. This process helps wine develop maturity. Vibration, or movement, can stir up the sediment, clouding the wine and interfering with its natural evolution.

There are several comprehensive books on home cellaring, including Richard Gold's How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar and the above-mentioned Cellaring Wine: do-it-yourself solutions by Tyson Stelzer. If home building projects are not your forte, you might consider buying a temperature- and humidity-controlled wine storage unit. If you go this route, we suggest using wood racks instead of steel ones, as wood racks will better absorb the vibration from the unit’s motor. Check the ventilation system to ensure a natural airflow to prevent fungal growths or unpleasant odors. Also, dual temperature models are now available and are a great alternative if you have both red and white wines in your collection. Consider getting a larger one than what you think you will need. Wine collections tend to grow, not shrink.

If all of the above sounds too daunting, you can also rent storage space at a state-of-the art, temperature- and humidity-controlled warehouse. Some wine storage facilities even offer services such as inventory tracking, appraisals, and other wine-related services.

One can buy the best wines in the world and, unless stored properly, over time they will decline in quality rather than improve with age.