Should You Cellar Your Wine?
First things first. Most wines are already at their peak of flavor and complexity by the time they arrive at your local shop and are simply not in need of any further aging. The vast majority of commercially produced wine is intended to be consumed within a few days of purchase. All the same, there are a much smaller number of wines which can benefit from aging in the proper environment – and that’s what we’re going to discuss here.
Like beer or yogurt, wine is a living food which can (and does) change over the time that it spends in the bottle. This could be something that happens in just a few years or over the course of several decades. Don’t believe it? All you need to do is to compare a new bottle of wine with one from 10 or more years ago from the same producer and you’ll be able to taste the difference, no question about it.
If all you want to do is enjoy your favorite wines, there’s absolutely no need to cellar. Many of us truly like the tastes of younger wines and this is a perfectly valid way to approach wine. However, if you’re planning to not only enjoy, but collect wine, then cellaring is something that you’re going to have to do. It’s a hobby which takes a great deal of patience; not everyone is willing to buy a bottle of wine to drink it 10 or 20 years down the road. If you think you have the patience and the free space in your home, then keep reading to find out more about how to properly cellar and age your wine.
Wine Needs A Controlled Environment
The most important thing about aging wine is to keep it in a stable, controlled environment. This means a more or less stable temperature and humidity levels, but also an environment which is dark and isn’t exposed to a lot of vibration (for instance, along a wall facing a heavily travelled road or in a basement which happens to be located above a subway line). These factors are the key, no matter what kind of wine you’re planning to age.
Wine Cellar Temperature
Temperature is probably the single most important factor. A temperature which remains constant at around 12 degrees centigrade is considered to be the idea temperature. In general, a lower temperature means a slower process of maturation for your wine, as well as a longer total lifespan. There is more to the complex chemistry of wine than temperature alone, however. It would be a mistake to think that you could age your wine more quickly by simply increasing the temperature of your cellar – as it happens, this has been shown time and again to be detrimental to the quality of your wine. Your patience will be rewarded when it’s finally time to open a bottle.
Passive vs. Active Temperature Control
A passive cellar is one which is not heated or cooled and is, preferably underground to provide cooler temperatures year round. The temperature will rise and fall slightly with the seasons, but this isn’t a bad thing, as long as the temperature changes are not sudden. If you have a basement which doesn’t tend to have large, sudden shifts in temperature over the course of the year, then this is probably the best option. An active cellar, by contrast, is an environment where the temperature is mechanically controlled – for instance, a spare room in your home or perhaps a wine cellar under stairs.
Wine Cellar Humidity
Humidity is less important than temperature in the aging process, but it still matters for one important reason – the cork. Laying your bottles on their side does a fine job of protecting the part of the cork that is actually touching the wine, but leaves the top of the cork unprotected. Low humidity levels in your cellar can allow the cork to dry out, which creates a space (called ullage) which allows more air to contact the wine – and cause oxidation. The ideal humidity level for your cellar is somewhere between 70% and 80 %. Even higher humidity levels are fine for your wine, but can damage the labels on your bottles.
Cellar Vibration and Light
Vibration and light can both disrupt the slow chemical reactions involved in aging wine. Light (especially sunlight) is the worst culprit, since this can also mean exposing your wine to unwanted heat. Again, since it truly does bear repeating, a dark, cool, humid and above all, more or less constant environment are exactly what your wine cellar needs to provide if you want your patient aging to pay off years or decades from now when you uncork a bottle you’ve been saving.
Wine Cabinets or Wine Fridges
Not everyone can afford, or has the space, to build a wine cellar however there is an alternative – the wine cabinet or wine fridge. Wine cabinets come in a variety of different sizes and specifications to suit your wine storage requirements. From wine ageing cabinets – max capacity, solid door, humidity and temperature. To glass fronted multi temperature display and serving cabinets. There are also a number of smaller capacity under counter or built in type kitchen cabinets. Manufacturers like Liebherr or Climadiff