We often get asked by our customers how they should best store their wines at home. So we asked our Grand Crew Manager, and certified WSET educator, Charlie, to give us the low-down.
Why store wines?
Wines are released from the winemakers in their infancy and many will become more enjoyable to drink with a few years under their belt. What happens in the ageing process is that the tough tannins ( think of an over-brewed cup of tea) and high acidity in a young wine, along with the slightly overpowering young fruit flavours all calm down in the bottle and mellow, maturing into a smooth delicious and melded wine...just the way it should be.
How long do wines need to mature?
Unless you are spending over £50 a bottle many of the wines will be happy with a few years of ageing before they start to come into their own and you can start pulling the corks. You will often find they keep giving drinking pleasure for several more years, as long as they are stored correctly and provided you have the willpower and patience…I can put my hand up to honestly say that I don’t have much of either when it comes to my wines! If you are a keen collector with deeper pockets then you will need to be looking at professional cellaring options as the wines will take many years to reach their peak. Do contact us for more assistance on this.
So what makes a good storage space?
There are three factors that influence wines in storage: Temperature, Light and Humidity. Of these the most critical is temperature. Many guides recommend the ideal wine storage temperature is between 10 and 15 °C. The general reality, especially for wines that only need a few years of ageing, is that no great harm will come to wine stored between 15 and 20 °C, but there is a BIG caveat here. The temperature mustn’t fluctuate too drastically causing the wine to expand and contract rapidly. This is probably the most important note to make for wine storage, do not store in an area where the temperature fluctuates more than a few degrees daily, so in the airing cupboard, conservatory, garden shed, and kitchen….all no go areas. If you’re not sure you can invest in a maximum and minimum thermometer to monitor potential places to store wine.
Once you have the temperature secured we can review Light and Humidity. Wine isn’t a fan of strong light, which can affect the taste of wine, particularly sparkling wine, and especially if the bottles are made from clear or pale glass. So somewhere dark is ideal. Humidity is the final important factor. If wine is stored somewhere too dry, the corks can dry out and stop being an effective seal. Therefore keeping the wines lying down on their side ensures the cork stays in contact with the wine which helps prevent this. Once again this means the airing cupboard isn’t the place for your wines!
I live in an apartment …..how am I going to store my wine?
Having discussed what makes a good cellar the ideal place would be a dark, dank room, images of a cobwebbed cold and damp cellar are a little outdated if nonetheless romantic. The reality is that our living arrangements have changed and as such so have our cellaring arrangements. As discussed above finding a place with a stable and low temperature is key with light and humidity playing second fiddle. In a standard home, space is at a premium so we need to be creative finding space to store a few cases of wine, this could be kept in an attic, basement or corner of a spare room that is always colder than the rest of the room, or even in an old fireplace or possibly under the stairs.
I really don’t have anywhere that works at home what can I do?
To keep it brief and If you are serious about wine two options exist. If you wanted the wines accessible at home, you will need to invest in an 'artificial cellar', a temperature- and humidity-controlled cabinet like a fridge which keeps the wines in perfect cellar conditions, these range in all sizes and styles for all budgets, have a look here for our recommended suppliers.
If you do not need direct access to the wines and can plan ahead on when you would like to drink your wines ( I would not be in that camp!) then there are many professional storage companies that offer safe secure storage for a reasonable charge of around £10-£15 a case per year. Once again do ask if you would like advice on this.