Storing Wine, Like a Professional

Proper wine storage is on one hand, easy, but on the other, usually expensive, especially if your intent is on establishing an extensive cellar collection.

In considering the cost, remember the cost of the wine you have purchased, and are planning on purchasing in the future, and storing. It would be a shame if a few thousand dollars of fine wine is ruined for want of spending a few hundred dollars more in the creation of your wine storage area. It is not a bad idea to think of your wine collection as either an investment - whether or not it IS an investment rather
than just having your favorites available when you want to enjoy them - or as a business, such as a fine restaurant that would have available an array of wines for its patrons.

In any case, the single most vital element of wine storage is temperature control. While the precise temperature of proper wine storage is not set in stone, and actually can be anywhere from 50º F to 70º F, depending on the expert you consult, the cardinal rule of wine storage is CONSTANT temperature. While 55º to 60º is generally considered ideal, the more important element is to keep it constant. Temperature variations, especially to extremes, will significantly damage wine.

Your storage area, whether a room, a rack, an electric cooler, or whatever, should be kept
clean and dry, to avoid the development of mold, and to make sure that noxious odors do not envelop your wine bottles. Your storage area also needs good ventilation, for similar reasons. Humidity above 65% will be dangerous for your wine, as that will promote the
development of mold. Humidity under 60% could cause your corks to dry out, and allow air to seep into the bottles.

If you are scouting locations in your home for your storage area, stay away from proximities to heating units and water heaters, not only because of the heat, but also to avoid vibrations. Vibration, especially constant vibration, is very bad for wine, and in fact, most modern electric wine cooler units now feature vibration-free thermoelectric cooling systems. Also, when picking that ideal location, if you are planning on bringing in one or more self-contained cellar units, take care to measure not just the final resting place of such units, but doorways and hallways from the entrance to the cellar location to make sure there is room to get there.

There are also several important rules to follow in the actual positioning of your wine bottles. Most wines - reds, whites, roses, and sparkling wines, need to be stored on their sides, so the liquid is constantly in contact with the cork. A lack of moisture on the cork and it dries out, loosens, and air enters the bottle, ravaging the wine. This is especially important for sparking wines, as not only does air enter the bottle, but gas escapes the bottle, and the carbonation dissipates. Fortified wines (with the exception of Vintage Port), on the other hand, are extremely vigorous, are generally not harmed by such leakage, and can be stored upright.

As to location within your storage area, white wines, that require the coolest temperatures, should be stored on the lowest shelves, with reds above them. Fortified wines may be placed closet to the top, and if you are also storing spirits, they also may be placed on the highest shelves.

Don't forget to acquire a cellar album or log to keep a record of your wines, including their date of purchase, and your comments upon opening and enjoying them.

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