Most wine experts agree that storing a wine between 52 and 55 degrees is the only safe temperature range, depending on the varietal. Yet what many experts are now discovering is that the threshold for safe wine storage might be more expansive than we once thought; instead, it is changes in temperature that can destroy a wine’s flavor. Jancis Robinson explains that the best cellars never waver in temperature, but this is a tough quality to find. She says, “For most of us, alas, this cellar belongs in the realm of fantasy. Most modern dwellings have a shortage of storage space of any kind, let alone somewhere cool, dark, quiet, slightly damp and roomy enough for a cache of bottles.” I’m here to tell you that modern collectors can still have this fantasy cellar, if they give up their home cellars.
How Wine Cellar Temperature Impacts Flavor
Any major deviation in temperature causes a wine to oxidize more quickly, resulting in tannin structures that are either too prominent (such as in wines stored under cooler conditions) or not prominent enough (such as in wines stored in hot cellars). Experts have found that for every 10-degree rise in cellar temperature, the aging speed of the wine doubles. In other words, a premium red wine will age twice as quickly in a hot cellar as it will in a cool place, risking premature spoilage. This is not simply a theory; winemakers have found that Cabernet Sauvignon stored at 91 degrees for one month tasted 18 years older than the same wine stored at 55 degrees for one month. The wine aged 56 times faster in the warmer cellar.
Before you toss young bottles into a hot cellar with the expectation of speeding up aging, understand that the sped-up process does not result in the same complex flavors wine collectors seek in aged vintages. Instead, these wines tend to taste flabby and weak. When a wine ages naturally, tannins slowly form long molecule chains that drift into strings of sediment at the base of the bottle (a process called polymerization). When heat affects this process, it forces the tannins into premature polymerization, taking all of the bite out of the wine without any of the steeped fruit flavors that come from decades of cool aging. In addition, wine corks expand and contract when temperatures rise and fall, which exposes the wine to too much oxygen. Wines in these conditions soon become oxidized, which leads to spoilage.
The Ideal Cellar
Wine experts like Robert Parker believe in regularly drinking many of the wines they collect, which is why Parker stores his wines in a cool, dark home cellar. Truly perfect cellars are difficult for even the greatest experts in the world to maintain, as they require precise and frequent temperature measurements. Generally, ready-to-drink wines have more cellar freedom. They can be stored anywhere between 40 and 65 degrees for up to a year. As long as the wine cellar temperature does not increase or decrease by more than 5 degrees, the wines will retain all of their flavors. This is why critics like Parker can maintain their own cellars with relative ease.
Premium wines meant for decades of cellaring and eventual resale investments, however, require far more care. Most premium red wines need to be stored at less than 65 degrees, depending on the varietal. For example, fine red wines from Beaujolais are best-stored at 54 degrees because their tannins are typically not as tight as red Bordeaux blends, making them more sensitive to high temperatures. This is also why Dolcetto wines cannot be stored much over 55 degrees, since the tannins cannot cope with warmer conditions. One can’t just stick the bottles in a freezer, either. These wines need to be stored at a temperature over 50 degrees to start the aging process.
On the other hand, white wines can be stored in much cooler conditions, anywhere from 45 degrees to 50 degrees. Collectors who own a mix of premium bottles of white wines, such as Haut-Brion Blanc, and red wines, such as Haut-Brion red Bordeaux blends, simply cannot store the wines under the same conditions for the best results possible. Storing the wine at 50 degrees is their best option, but it is on the cusp of acceptable temperatures for both red and white varietals. Instead, collectors with multiple vintages ranging in tannins and grape type should consider a third party storage system.
Variety Calls for Additional Help
Either collectors can maintain two separate cellars for their red and white varietals, or they can save time and money using a professional cellaring program. These cellaring programs are the best option for serious collectors because they save money, time, and wine quality. Maintaining more than one storage system requires not only the purchase of containers and spaces for the wine, but also constant, precise temperature control of both areas to create the ideal environment for each type of wine. Maintaining a personal cellar might be worth it to wine lovers who simply want to drink their wines, but for investors, this method is a hassle that eats into final profits owing to storage costs.
Not only do collectors have to check their wine cellar temperatures at least once every three days to make sure temperatures are stable, the more separate cellars a collector needs, the fewer wines the collector is able to buy. This means that as collectors move from amateurs to serious, seasoned wine connoisseurs, having a professional storage systemis essential. Vinfolio’s storage facility keeps every bottle of wine at a constant temperature, catering the storage techniques to fit the wine’s individual needs. This system is ahead of many of its competitors in its Vincellar perks. Collectors get expert wine storage along with up-to-date information about when their bottles will be ripe for drinking and when they should consider selling their bottles on the market. Wine collectors need all of their spare time to search for new bottles if they want to compete on the market, so professional services that take on the rest of the work is well worth the extra investment.
By: Vinfolio Staff