The idea of wine storage, or cellaring, may evoke images of a vast cellar filled with dusty bottles of priceless vintage Bordeaux… overwhelming to say the least. The truth is that, unless you have a large collection of fine wines that you’re planning to cellar for years, anyone looking to store wines for a later date can do so by learning a few things about proper wine storage. We have put together a list of the most common myths surrounding wine cellaring:
Myth #1: All wines benefit from cellaring
The most important thing to remember regarding cellaring wine is that most wine isn’t meant to be cellared. The huge majority of the world’s wines don’t have what it takes to age for decades. Most wines are meant to be enjoyed in the first one to five years of their lives and even those wines that have the potential to develop slowly over many years will achieve their potential only if they’re properly stored.
Aged wine is better wine
Everyone who is passionate about wine should know how old wine tastes. It’s not that old wine is better, it’s just different; any older wine delivers a different spectrum of flavors from what you would taste in a young wine. Even if you are a novice wine-taster, a properly aged wine will taste and feel very different from the younger version.
Only red wines are worth aging
Certain white wines – vintage Champagne, Sauternes, German Rieslings, and even some dry white wines from places as diverse as the Loire Valley, western Australia, and southern Spain – are just as age-worthy as any reds.
Finally, most wines, even cellar-worthy ones, are delicious upon release. The better wines will age well for up to a decade. Rare indeed are wines that need a decade or more to reach their peak. Always remember, it is better to drink a wine a year too soon than a day too late.
Myth #2: I need to have a built-in wine cellar in order to store wines at home
You do not need to have an in-home wine cellar to store your wines. If you haven’t been blessed with a cool, not-too-damp basement that can double as a cellar, you can improvise with some simple racks in a safe place. Rule out your kitchen, laundry room or boiler room, where hot temperatures could affect your wines, and look for a location not directly in line with light pouring in from a window. You could also buy a small wine cooler and follow the same guidelines: If you keep your wine fridge in a cool place, it won’t have to work so hard, keeping your energy bill down.
Perhaps there is a little-used closet or other vacant storage area that could be re-purposed for storing wine? If you have a suitable dark, stable space that’s not too damp or dry, but it is too warm, you might consider investing in a standalone cooling unit specifically designed for wine. There are some inexpensive systems for small spaces, but in most cases, this is getting into professional wine storage.
When is it time to upgrade your storage conditions? Ask yourself this: How much did you spend last year on your wine habit? If a $1,000 cooling unit represents less than 25 percent of your annual wine-buying budget, it’s time to think about it more carefully, might as well protect your investment.
One other piece of advice from collectors: Whatever number you’re thinking of when it comes to bottle capacity, double it. Once you’ve started accumulating wines to drink later, it’s hard to stop.
Myth #3: White, sparkling and red wines should be stored at different temperatures
There is a big misconception in the wine world that white, sparkling and red wines should be stored at different temperatures. The fact of the matter is that ALL wine (red, white, sparkling, fortified, etc.) should be stored at between 53-57 degrees F, 55 degrees F often cited as close to perfect. This allows the wine to evolve and age as the winemaker intended, if it is indeed a wine meant for aging.
Myth #4: Wines bottles need to be stored horizontally
Traditionally, bottles have been stored on their sides in order to keep the liquid up against the cork, which theoretically should keep the cork from drying out. This is hazardous to your wine because if a cork starts to dry out, it will start to let air inside, causing premature oxidation. If you’re planning on drinking these bottles in the near to mid-term, or if the bottles have alternative closures (screw caps, glass or plastic corks), this is not necessary. We will say this, however: horizontal racking is a space-efficient way to store your bottles, and it definitely can’t harm your wines.
Myth #5: Serious, storage-worthy wines are always sealed with cork
Not all that long ago, this statement was true, but it’s no longer the case. Screw-off caps are still the closure on large “jug” bottles of those old-fashioned, really inexpensive domestic wines, but that type of wine is a dying breed. Meanwhile, sleek and modern screw-off caps have come on the scene as the closure of choice on many bottles of fine wine, especially white wines, from all over the world.
In addition, research in New Zealand has proven that wines can age and develop in bottles closed with screw caps, as wine does in cork-sealed bottles.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking to buy wines to mature, as a collector or as an investment, you should really consider investing in professional-grade storage. For everyone else, following the above guidelines should keep your wines safe until you’re ready to drink them. Enjoy!
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