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Wine Storage Guide

The right wine storage at home brings many benefits

A wine cellar at home makes it easier to select the right wine for the most diverse of occasions. Whether you are selecting a suitable wine to go with a good meal, hosting guests or uncorking an exceptional vintage wine for a special occasion (birthday, wedding, etc.), wine is one of the most durable, interesting and sought-after aids to enjoyment. Many wines display the year of production as a vintage number on the label, which makes the label a 'tasteful' document of contemporary history. Consequently, wine is predestined to be collected and stored. Vintage wines are also seen as evocative gifts. As well as embodying ideas the financial viewpoint plays a part in durable, high-quality wines, especially those from prestigious vineyards and cellars. Provided that they are stored faultlessly, wines are distinguished by a consistently and often perceptibly increasing value, which is why they are recommended as a capital investment.

Properly stored, wines remain for long periods in a good state of maturation and frequently they improve in maturity and pleasure in drinking them is thus enhanced.

Collecting wines and observing their development is an attractive, worth-while hobby, in which the wine amateur can gradually develop to a professional level.

Irrespective of the number of bottles to be stored over a relatively long period, certain minimum pre-conditions for their storage must always be present.

Important rules for the optimum storage of wine: cool and dark

Temperature

A decisive criterion for long-term storage is the optimum temperature. Chemical reactions in wine maturation take place more slowly at temperatures of less than 10°C than at higher temperatures. This is why wine matures and ages more quickly at higher temperatures and thus tends to lose some of its quality.

However, relatively major fluctuations in temperature are also harmful to the quality of the wine. Storing wine at room temperatures, which differ markedly depending on the season (e.g. below 10°C in winter, above 20°C in summer) accelerates the ripening conditions and impairs the quality of the wines within a relatively short time. Premises where temperatures are subject to relatively major fluctuations within shorter periods (e.g. on a 24-hour cycle) are even less well-suited. The "inner balance" of wines stored here is liable to be disturbed, so that the wines mature and degrade particularly quickly.

The recommended temperature for storing white wines is 8° to 12°C and for storing red wines it is up to 16°C. Red wines with storage temperatures lower than 16°C should be allowed to warm up slowly to normal drinking temperature (18°C).

Humidity

However many advantages your dry cellar spaces may otherwise offer, they are not suitable for long-term storage of wine. This is because in storage rooms, which are too dry, the corks can gradually dry out; as a result they shrink, leak and allow the wine to escape.

Evaporation of the condensation from air-conditioning units in wine cellars can build up a certain degree of humidity. If this is not sufficient, especially in larger storage areas and cellars, a humidifier may bring the moisture content up to the required level.

When storing wine for longer periods the air humidity should be between 60% and 80%. A significantly higher level can lead to fungal growth on (wooden) racks, bottle tops and wine labels.

Odour and vibration

Where possible, wines should be stored in an odour-free atmosphere, since after a given time odours are transmitted to the wine.

In addition, wines are sensitive to constant slight vibrations, for example if a generator has been installed nearby. In the long term these storage conditions will destroy your pleasure in your treasures.

Light conditions

Light that is too bright as well as UV light is harmful to the wine. The best solution is to store it in darkness. For these reasons also you should refrain from lighting the wine cellar for long periods, because many lights give off heat, which has negative effects on the storage. Cellars are best lit with LED lights, which generate less heat.

Must wine bottles be stored lying down?

In a long-term study researchers at Hochschule Geisenheim University have discovered that it makes hardly any difference whether wine bottles are stored vertically or horizontally. The dreaded drying-out of the cork, when it is not moistened by the wine, simply does not happen. To prevent the cork drying out the air humidity must not be too low, since at higher levels of air humidity the cork does not dry out. Also, nowadays screw caps, glass stoppers and plastic caps are increasingly being used. However bottles stored standing up require more space than when they are stored on their sides. It is also easier to find individual bottles if they are stored horizontally.

Storing wine on a wine rack: what factors should be considered?

Since it takes many wines some time to develop their optimum maturity and no wine is drunk immediately after purchase, the bottles must be stored somewhere. For this purpose there is a wide range of wine racks. To find a suitable rack, the following factors should be considered:

  • How many bottles do I want to accommodate? (number of modules or rack systems)
  • Scope for extension (take into account possible reserves for later expansion)
  • Assembly (many racks have a simple interlocking system)
  • Functionality/ease of handling in use (placing and removing the bottles, storing bottles individually, next to each other or one above the other)
  • Possible additional storage of cases of wine (6 or 12 bottles) or large bottles (magnum, double magnum) and special bottles (Bocksbeutel, 0.35 l)
  • Possible additional storage of other drinks (mineral water, juices)
  • Storage of wine accessories (cork screws, decanters, etc.)

How do I plan and construct a wine cellar?

In conjunction with the global increase in the demand for exquisite wines, which will retain their value, exclusive wine cellar equipment has become especially fashionable in private households.

Features of location, size and facilities for domestic wine cellars should, where possible, already be determined when planning the house. However, it is also possible to convert a suitable cellar or storage room into a wine cellar.

It is vital to include the rules listed above for storing wine in the planning and to take the number of bottles to be stored into account.

Correct air-conditioning is important for long-term storage

Before an air-conditioning unit is installed, the cellar must be insulated. The purpose of thermal insulation is to reduce the heat transfer between indoors and outdoors. Other sources of heat, such as heating pipes, underfloor heating installed above the cellar and warm adjoining rooms, also play a part in this. A well-insulated room contributes to the durability of the wine cooling system. Any existing windows should be fitted with insulating glass and possibly blacked out. The best thermal insulation material is 6 cm thick Styrodur.

What kinds of air-conditioning units are there?

Soundproofed units with a range of air-conditioning operating levels, suitable for the respective size of room, are available for professional air conditioning and are relatively simple to install.

Depending on the relative space available and room configurations, a distinction is made between monoblock units, split units and duct-guided cooling systems. In monoblock units the individual unit is built into the wall and in split units the cooling unit is located in the room to be cooled and the compressor is located outside the room. In duct-guided cooling systems the unit is located in an external space, so that it is not visible in the wine cellar. In the interior of the cellar there is only a grille connected to the cooling unit by a flexible, insulated pipe. If it is not possible to build a unit into the cellar wall, the simple solution, especially for smaller spaces (up to 15 m³) is to install an air-conditioning door with an air-conditioning unit, which is not visible from outside. Frequent maintenance is not necessary; the filter should be changed once a year.

Should the cellar be too dry, there is a risk that the corks will dry out, which also results in a loss in the quality of the wine. This is where a humidifier proves useful. Our tip: For fine wines check the air humidity in the wine storage area. An appropriate thermograph or hydrograph is suitable for this purpose.

In addition, you should not install a wine cooler in your wine cellar, because it gives off too much heat.

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