HOW TO STORE AND AGE WINE: WINE COOLERS 101
How to Store Wine
For wine to age perfectly and develop all the aromas and flavours one would anticipate, there are very precise conditions that need to be present. There is a checklist of essential conditions in which to keep the wine to ensure the optimal conditions are created and maintained.
Although these conditions are common knowledge to the wine connoisseur, few people really know why these are considered the ideal conditions. There is not enough information on what happens inside the bottle during the ageing process. Modern-day Wine Coolers have been designed in a way to create optimal ageing conditions for wine – but what exactly do these conditions entail?
The Journey of wine making
The winemaking process is a long and complicated process, which allows for the perfect balance between flavour, texture, and aroma. It is so much more than a beverage; it is an experience contained in a bottle.
One of the greatest things about wine is the fact that you not only get to experience what the wine is like a few months after being produced, but you get to experience how it develops and changes after several years. Maintaining the wine’s integrity and allowing the wine to develop to its full potential is key. Understanding what is needed to enjoy wine at its full potential will make the world’s difference to your tasting experience.
Keep the wine cool
The storage, ageing and maturation of wine is something that has been studied for decades. As avid wine lovers and wine experts search for the perfect wine, they first seek the perfect conditions in which to develop these wines. The old saying goes that older wine always tastes better, but that is not always the case. Unless wines are stored in perfect conditions, the wine will fall flat within a few years.
One of the greatest influences of this is the temperature in which the wine is stored. Hundreds of experiments have been conducted and have all come to the same conclusion: wine ages 4 times faster in room temperature than in cooler temperatures.
Not only do hot conditions cook the wine and add unpleasant cooked-fruit and stale aromas to the wine, but even room temperature is too warm for the wine. Cooler temperatures, like those in a wine cooler, help slow down the breakdown of the compounds of the wine.
A simpler example of this is the use of a refrigerator to slow down the growth of bacteria on cooked food. Although the food will eventually go bad in the refrigerator, it will happen at a much slower rate than if left at room temperature. The same applies to wine.
For wine, ideal storage temperatures range from 12 - 15°C (55°F to 60°F). Higher temperatures may result in a wine that no one wants to drink.
Essentially, long-term ageing allows fermentation to continue inside the bottle, where the acidity and tannin of the wine start to smoothen and change. With warm temperatures, this process is not sped up. Instead, the wine will show traits of being cooked, and unpleasant traits will persist instead. There is no way of speeding up the ageing process without putting the wine at risk.
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Keep temperatures consistent
Although the correct temperature is a major factor, having the wine at a consistent temperature is equally as important. Wine coolers are designed in a way to keep the temperatures consistent.
The importance of a regulated temperature stems from the fact that temperature fluctuations affect the cork, thus, allowing oxygen to seep through into the wine. As the corks expand and contract with the changing temperatures, the pours open and allow oxygen to enter the bottle.
What speeds up the process of ageing more than anything? Oxygen. Modern-day wine coolers can provide conditions that traditional, underground cellars cannot guarantee – which is the consistency of temperatures to avoid oxidation.
Turn the lights off
Unfortunately, there are several factors that contribute to the damage of wine, that goes beyond just temperatures. Light, whether it be natural or synthetic, proves to be detrimental to the short and long-term ageing of wine.
Any light that the wine is subjected to, breaks down the molecules of the wine, which play a key role in the flavours, texture, and aroma of the wine. Any short exposure of light should have no significance to the wine. However, just a couple of hours of light-exposure could alter the taste of the wine.
Florescent lights have been shown to have a detrimental effect on wine. Not only do these lights mute the aromas, but it encourages the development of compounds that add an unpleasant, and often bitter note to the wine.
Although some glass bottles are more resistant, the light will still impact the wine. Whether this is from artificial, florescent lights, or natural sunlight.
LED lights are the most favourable lighting option as they produce minimal heat which does not affect temperatures in a wine cooler.
Position wine bottle horizontally
For an avid wine lover and collector, the rule of thumb has always been that wine should be stored on its side. There is a simple explanation for this – and the reason why most wine coolers are designed to allow wines to be stored flat.
Corks are the natural barrier between the wine and the oxygen that could potentially destroy the wine. But these natural corks are not faultless – they tend to break-down like any other natural product.
The key to avoiding the breaking-down and deterioration of the wine’s cork is to keep it moist. The corks tend to crumble only when it is dried out. By keeping the wine in contact with the cork, this drying out process is delayed – protecting the wine from oxygen for longer.
Keep it humid
Although keeping the cork moist from the inside seems like the perfect way to avoid it from crumbling, it is unfortunately not fool proof. This touch of moisture from the inside of the bottle is not enough to protect the entire cork. Moisture from the outside is just as important to prevent it from cracking and crumbling.
With dry air, moisture is drawn out from the corks, which will speed up the process of drying and cracking. Ideal humidity levels are around 70%. With the design of wine coolers, these levels do not have to be monitored, as the cooler can regulate this automatically.
Limit the vibration
Most wine enthusiasts have understood that wines should not be exposed to any form of constant vibration. It is hard to imagine a scenario where there is constant movement or vibration, but there are more circumstances than one might think. In a normal household, storing wine near a refrigerator or a microwave will see a rapid deterioration of wines. Wine coolers have been specifically designed to avoid any form of vibration that could harm the wine. But why is that important?
The constant vibrational disturbance of wine has been linked to a decrease of tartaric acid in a wine, which mutes the flavours over a long period of time.
Additionally, constant vibration results in the reduction of the propanol compound in wine, which will mean fewer aromas. Essentially, constant vibrations mean that the wine will taste dull and lack any flavour.
What does this mean?
Light, humidity, heat and movement have some devastating effects on wine. Whether these factors dull the aromas or whether they create unpleasant flavours, these elements alter the wine in one way or another.
Most of these conditions can alter wine that is being stored for a short time, and especially alter wines that are being kept for longer periods of time.
Wine coolers can provide the ideal conditions needed for the storage of wine – whether it be for short-term storage or long-term ageing. Wine coolers have been designed as the perfect way to combat all the elements that can potentially ruin a bottle of wine.
Over the centuries, wine blunders have pointed modern-day specialists into designing a flawless, storage unit. Although underground cellars were once considered the ideal place, it is not practical in the 21st century. Modern-day technology has allowed us to mimic similar conditions that under-ground cellars provide and scale it down into a small and affordable unit that can be placed anywhere inside our homes and businesses.
Related post: Wine Cooler Buyer's Guide