Do you have your wine on a display rack in your lounge room? Consider this a digital slap on your knuckles for the damage being done to your lovely wine collection. So why do you store it there… It looks nice and I understand we can't all add a basement wine cellar (the practicality of digging hole under the middle of your house quickly becomes a problem), but there are other options…
Firstly why are wine storage conditions so important? The first reason is that with time, under the right conditions, the components of the wine will work together to create balance between fruit, acid and tannins to soften and mature to a taste which many prefer. The second reason is to prevent our wine turning to the dreaded 'vinegar', the process where volatile compounds multiply and overpower the taste and smell of the wine.
What we try to achieve when storing our wine is to prevent exposure to sunlight (UV), avoid quick changes in temperature, as well as keeping the maximum temperature down. These conditions all favour the development of our wine spoilage mechanisms (Bec loves talking the chemistry, but I'll leave out the details for now). Our ideal temperature for slow ageing is 10-15 degrees C, keeping below a maximum of 25 degrees C. For those questioning 'What about humidity?' this is not as critical to our wine as the aforementioned factors and has thankfully become even less of a factor with the introduction of screwcap.
I hope you're convinced action is needed, SO WHAT DO YOU DO??
I named this 'practical' storage so I'll start at reducing the damage (not preventing it!) and I've mentioned our critical factors are sunlight, temperature variation and maximum temperature. So, if you like your wine on display in your living area, look to reduce damage by getting out of the line of sunlight, avoid places next to heating and cooling such as under ducts. Pretty simple hey?!
So we now want to get a little more serious, but what if you've got no spare cash (as you've spent it all on wine). Let's get it out of our living area that is exposed to sunlight and regular changes in temperature and find a better room. You're looking for the coolest room in the house, and as a typical Aussie house may not have a basement, look preferably for a south east facing room that avoid the heat of the evening sun. Now we want to black out the sun with decent curtains (or a black sheet) and we have an improvement. You could now consider getting the wines inside some additional insulation such as a cupboard with some covering blankets.
Your wines are now starting to feel safer and are on the road to ageing, with the maximum temperature of 25 potentially covered, but the ideal temperature of 10-15 for a safe, slow ageing process is far from a guarantee. This is where money and effort start to come into play. Money can get you wine fridge, which is a particularly neat and simple option, whereas effort (and potentially money) can get you the fun and idealistic underground wine cellar.
A small wine fridge start at around the $150 mark, but will often not have a compressor at this price, resulting in less ability to cool if put in a really hot room. $500 will get you a good quality 32 bottle wine fridge you can be confident will last and then price and options grow from there. These can be a great addition to a living space or can look quite appealing replacing one of the kitchen cupboards, just remember to watch sunlight if they're not tinted.
Ahh, the underground cellar. It has to be the pinnacle of wine storage options. Combine it with a secret 'James Bond' style entrance they can be very entertaining and add value to your home. However, in this case I am talking about practical options so in this area we are limited. I have included a picture of a prefabricated wine cellar that stood out to me as something a little special, in which you can get quite a few options of typically concrete shells that can be placed in the ground and buried. Check out the video and it all seems too easy ;) Alternatively mates have used a buried shipping container or excavated into the side of a rise. Maybe building an underground cellar could be the subject of another blog if there is interest out there…
If it all sounds too hard, but you want a guarantee, there is a simple way, an off-premise wine storage facility. If you live within close proximity of a city there are plenty of options for you, but it ain't the most exciting way to look after your wine.
So you're now looking after your wine, now what?
Peak drinking depends so much on the wine, cellaring conditions and personal taste that it is not possible to have a general rule for all wine. I'll leave you with a quick tip that hopefully doesn't leave a sour taste… You decide what works for you and the best way to do that is with plenty of practice, which means you need to get out there and try many wines young and old.
Thanks for reading,