Safeguarding your vino

It is simply not possible for most of us to possess an elaborate wine cellar in our home.

But for those who like to invest in a few bottles of good wine, creating the conditions of a wine celler can be easier than it appears.
InsideOut spoke to Lee Royle, certified sommelier and retail wine sales professional at Jacques Scott Group, for expert advice on getting the best from your vino.

Although proper storage and aging are popular topics amongst wine enthusiasts, most people consume wine within a few days of buying it.

A study from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario showed the average length that wine was stored after being bought in a store was 14 hours.
“So the percentage of people who actually collect and store wine properly is very small,” Lee explains.

As such, most wines are made to drink immediately. But there is a small percentage that will benefit from a long-term cellar.

How to store wines
When it comes to wine storage, there are a number of key factors to consider.

For those interested in aging wines for a prolonged period of time, the most important element is temperature. The ideal storage temperature for all kinds of wine is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit; the temperature should stay within a range of 50 to 55 degrees.

“The stipulation should be that it doesn’t fluctuate,” Lee says. “While heat is not good for wine, what destroys it quickly is fluctuations in temperature, even by five degrees. If you’re getting that repeatedly it will really, really deteriorate your wine. It will age and oxidise very, very quickly.”

Bottles also need to be stored away from sunlight, ideally in the dark, as ultraviolet rays deteriorate the wine. Ideally, wine should be kept at around 70 per cent humidity to prevent the corks from drying out. The importance of humidity increases the longer the wine is kept in the cellar.

If you have a bottle that you want to mature over a couple of years, the best results will be achieved by storing the bottle, undisturbed, in the dark at the most ideal temperature. Vibration also needs to be avoided – the wines need to be kept still.

Bottles should be laid flat to help keep the cork moist.
“If you can recreate these conditions anywhere in your house, there’s no end to what you can store there,” Lee asserts.

For those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a wine cellar, Lee suggests finding the coolest, darkest place in your house that isn’t prone to temperature fluctuations.

For example, if you have a dark cubby hole under the stairs; insulate the door and maintain a controlled temperature (by way of a small air-conditioner or a duct from the main house). Install simple shelving to lay the wine bottles on their side and a spotlight to find your way around. A humidifier might also be necessary if humidity is an issue.

“If, in general, it’s kept cool, on its side, away from sunlight, wine should be good for a really long period of time,” Lee explains.

“If you can create the conditions even underneath a desk then wine will age perfectly, as long as the wine is not disturbed. Let the bottles sit there until you’re ready to drink it.”

For serious collectors
For high-end collectors, however, who buy wine by the case from famous estates and wait for it to age, cellars are a serious business.

With this type of collection, your storage conditions must be perfect. A purpose-built wine cellar is the ideal option as it allows you to protect your investment while also serving as a showcase for your home.

Wine storage areas are referred to as cellars as, historically, this was the best natural place to store wine in countries such as France.

Since storage underground might not be ideal in Cayman, a dedicated wine room with cellar-like conditions is the best option for serious collectors.

The length of time a wine can be stored for, without beginning to deteriorate, depends on the drop; the origin of the wine, the quality of harvest and the vintage will determine the optimal time to enjoy your investment.

“The most important thing is that the wine is stored in the right conditions – period. You can have the greatest wine cellar in the world but if it’s the wrong temperature and it fluctuates it’s a big waste of money,” Lee says.  

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Stephen Clarke