For centuries, it has been assumed that wine should be consumed while its youth is still intact. Our ancestors could not be blamed for believing this; wine, after all, is a living or fickle entity. If proper precautions are not taken, oxygen can transform its alcoholic character into acetic acid, which is basically vinegar. But, as the ancient Greeks and Egyptians discovered, if stored in well-sealed amphoras or containers, the best wines not only keep, but can improve.
Currently, the dynamics of wine conservation has undergone a drastic turn. The different types of wine require specific maturation and rest times. For example, light white wines and rosés should be enjoyed in their youth. Reserva whites and short aging reds require a short rest period to fully develop their character. Long-aged or reserve reds need years to reach their peak.
This brings us to the crucial point: the preservation of the wine we buy. The goal should always be to keep it in the best possible condition to ensure that it is properly preserved and prevent deterioration. Thanks to modern production techniques, wine now has much higher stability and keepability than in the past. This greater durability is not due to the addition of external preservatives, but rather to the superior purity and control of modern equipment, which result in a more stabilized and inert wine, capable of aging without becoming ill as easily.
However, despite this, the optimal conservation of wine in the home cellar depends on several factors:
- Temperature: It must be constant, between 12 and 16°C depending on whether it is winter or summer. It is essential to measure it before deciding where to locate our cellar, checking if there are hot water pipes, heating or other elements that we need to insulate.
- Humidity: It should be high, around 70-75%. Excessive humidity can mold and rot the labels and cork, while a lack of humidity will dry out the cork.
- Ventilation: the cellar does not require great ventilation, but it must be openable to the air. If it is an underground and closed cellar, it must have a ventilation route to the outside.
- Light: The cellar should be dimly lit, since light can greatly harm the wines. Recent studies indicate that low-intensity LED lights are the best for lighting warehouses.
- Vibrations: It is essential to keep the wines away from vibrations and noise, which can damage them. Avoid music in the cellar, or install it in a garage.
- Cleaning: Before installing the wines, it is crucial to thoroughly clean the cellar and sanitize it. Subsequently, it must be kept clear and only keep wine, without other foods whose odors could seep into it. A dirty cellar spoils the wines sooner due to bacterial contamination.
- Position and ease of access to bottles: the bottles must be separated from each other, and in a horizontal position to keep the liquid in contact with the cork. Bottles for rapid consumption, older than 12 months, can be placed upright.
- Order: the wines must be kept in order, by groups or types of wine. It is useful to keep an inventory, a simple excel sheet can be used for this.
Properly preserving wine may seem like an art in itself, and in many ways, it is. But the flavor and character of a well preserved wine is well worth the effort.
Optimizing space for wine storage
Wine is a true gem for lovers of delicacies and its correct conservation is essential to maintain its unique flavor and aroma. Choosing the right place to install a wine cellar is a crucial decision, since it will depend on it to meet the ideal conditions for the wine to be preserved instead of spoiling.
If you are lucky enough to have a large space in a chalet or single-family house, one of the most suitable places is the basement, as long as it does not mix with the garage, storage room, pantry or laundry room. This place should meet certain conditions to be an ideal cellar: facing north, that is, shaded and cold (in the southern hemisphere, it would be the other way round, south facing is cold), being made up of thick walls and white concrete or stone, a floor made of porous material that absorbs moisture and adequate ventilation.
However, even in a smaller space, such as an apartment, it is possible to find the perfect place with some effort and dedication. Today’s flats tend to have small rooms, be hot, poorly insulated and endowed with intense artificial light. But do not despair, there are several more than acceptable alternatives to preserve your wine.
One option would be to have an old flat with solid walls, high ceilings, long corridors and interior rooms. If you don’t have one, a storage room may be a viable option, although it should be well insulated from noise and smells from the garage, and may be unsafe if you have expensive wines. In a modern apartment, you can look for a cool and isolated room, and if it doesn’t exist, you can create these characteristics artificially.
Today, there are temperature regulation systems, such as fiberglass, expanded polyurethane sheets or air conditioners that can provide adequate conditions in any room. If none of these options is feasible, there is a very simple and ideal alternative: a special wine storage cabinet that regulates temperature and humidity inside.
Once you have studied all the possibilities and decided on the best possible location for your cellar, comes the question of how to distribute it and what furniture to use. The layout of the cellar should be simple, with shelves for the wine, a table to open and taste the wine and shelves to store other utensils.
The bottle racks, the shelves where the wine is stored, are perhaps the most important element of furniture in a winery. There are many types, from the simplest wooden shelves to the prefabricated ones made of iron, plastic, ceramic or the same wood.
Finally, it is important to remember that, no matter how widespread the custom, you should avoid storing bottles in the kitchen at all costs, be it in your cabinets, under the sinks or in decorative bottle racks. The kitchen, with its sudden and frequent changes in temperature, smoke, odors and noise, is a disastrous environment (not to say the worst possible) for the correct conservation of wines. The right choice of storage space and the proper layout of the cellar can make the difference between a wine that simply passes the time and a wine that improves with age.