Did you know that the wrong storage environment can negatively affect your wine after only a few weeks and substantially reduce the life of your wine? Inconsistent temperatures, excessive heat and light exposure all cause undesirable characteristics, such as loss of fruit and floral flavours, unpleasant aromas, or oxidisation.
Check out this list of all the places you might store your wine at home, and which ones you should try to avoid.
Surprisingly, one of the worst places for storing wine is in your kitchen.
This includes near or above your stovetop and oven, or next to your fridge – which dispels a considerable amount of heat during its compressor cycles. Any wine professional will tell you that fluctuating temperature is one of the worst things for your wine.
Similarly, storing wine in a consistently hot environment, such as a west-facing garage or attic, will literally cook your wine, resulting in flabby ‘spoiled fruit’ flavours.
Another disastrous option is storing your wine on racks near a window or glass door in direct sunlight, where your wine will be exposed to excessive light. UV light in particular causes hydrogen sulphide compounds in wine, which affects a wine’s colour and tannins. It strips the wine of the natural fruit flavours and causes it to taste flat and lifeless.
Unfortunately, this category covers a lot of the places we often think are okay for wine storage, such as under the staircase or house, in a basement, or in Styrofoam boxes.
Wine’s ideal cellaring temperature is between 12ºC and 14ºC. Storing wine under 10° will stunt maturation, while above 16° will prematurely age the wine. This isn’t a wide bracket, and constant variation between the two can cause a surprising amount of damage to a wine’s structure and life expectancy.
Indeed, a 2014 study conducted by the Fondazione Edmund Mach Institute in Italy found that wine stored at home ages four times faster than when stored in a proper cellar and tasted blander.
Lead researcher Dr Fulvio Mattivi said, “After six months under domestic conditions, the wine in the bottle was approximately as ‘old’ as a bottle from the same producer stored for two years under cellar conditions. The house-stored wine was ageing approximately four times faster”. The conclusion reached was that even slight changes in storage temperature can severely affect your wine.
On top of this, low humidity environments (below 50% hygrometry) dry out corks, causing them to become brittle and shrink, which allows air into the bottle. You can recognise an oxidised wine through off and unpleasant odours, and discolouration from purple or red to brown.
So excluding all these places, where should you store your wine? Though it sounds obvious, the best place is somewhere that has been specifically designed to accommodate the needs of your wines, like a cool natural underground cellar, a purpose-built walk-in wine cellar, or a climate-controlled wine cabinet.
These options prevent wines from spoiling due to environmental stress and allow them to mature at a steady rate. A well-made wine cabinet or walk-in cellar replicate the conditions found in the best natural underground wine cellars by controlling humidity, temperature, and UV light – and can effectively prolong the life of your wine substantially.
While you may assume a regular fridge or wine cooler is a good alternative, unfortunately, these generate intense blasts of cold air, creating large temperature fluctuations, and they remove ambient humidity causing your corks to dry out. In addition, a climate-controlled wine cabinet is typically equipped with a special slow-cycling compressor housed outside the unit on rubber shock-pads, to protect your bottles from vibrations that spoil and prematurely age wine, and ensures frequent air circulation to limit the growth of mould on corks and labels.
If you don’t yet have the right storage solution for your home, you can also look into external cellaring facilities, or only purchase wine for immediate enjoyment. However, you will be missing out on the joys of cellaring, and will only be able to hold a limited amount of bottles on hand at any time.