There is a mystique around buying, storing and drinking wine. Many of us live with this uneasy feeling that we’re not doing it right and that somehow we’re missing out on the true wine experience.
The good news is that this sensation is almost entirely unfounded. Wine is to be enjoyed, not revered or even feared, and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it.
That said, centuries of experience has taught vintners to create wine with a multitude of different flavours and textures. To enjoy these at their best there are some basic principles to be followed.
1. Keep it in the dark – wine deteriorates when exposed to light. This is why wine is usually stored in cellars.
2. Keep it lying down – this keeps the wine in contact with the cork, preventing it from drying out and allowing too much air into the bottle. Bottles with artificial corks or screw tops do not need to be kept lying down.
3. Keep it still – wine contains sediment which settles over time. Constant movement keeps the sediment active which has a detrimental effect on the wine.
4. Keep the temperature consistent – wine cellars are a quiet, dark environment with very little temperature fluctuation. Constant changes in temperature affect the wine. The ideal storage temperature is 10-15 degrees Celsius (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit) but up to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) should not be a problem. However, an environment where temperatures exceed 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) should be avoided.
5. Keep humidity around 70%-80% – this also helps prevent the cork from drying out and permits the wine to breathe naturally.
Most white wines are best served chilled but there is no need to store them at low temperatures. White and red wines can be stored side by side. The chilling can be left until a few hours before the wine is to be served.
There is no need for the average wine drinker to become overly concerned with how their wine is stored. The vast majority of modern wines are supplied by supermarkets and they are designed to be drunk immediately. The supermarkets themselves do not store them in dark, cool conditions and the bottles endure significant movement in shipping and when purchased.
While the suggestions above are relevant to wines that you intend to store for a considerable period of time, the bottle that’s bought and consumed within a few days will not get much, if any, benefit from special storage techniques.
So next time you enjoy a bottle of wine don’t worry that it might not have been stored correctly. Enjoy it for what it is – fermented grape juice with a great taste and with an effect that gladdens the heart.