10 Tips to Better Wine
1. Wine Storage Temperature:
Maintaining the optimal temperature and avoiding wild temperature swings are the most crucial to proper wine storage.
Wine can be stored safely from 40° to 65°F (4° to 18°C). The optimal storage temperature depends on the wine's age and how long it will be stored. If the bottle will be opened within a year or two, a warmer temperature of 60-65°F (15° to 18°C) will speed the development of bottle bouquet. An 18°F (7°C) increase in temperature will double the rate of chemical reactions. Storage at elevated temperatures more than typical room temperature at 70°F (21°C) cause undesirable changes as various reactions are accelerated, but at different rates. The result is a lack of balance in the aging process. Even fluctuations of more than 5° to 10°F (2° to 4°C) are undesirable.
If your intention is to store your wine for longer term, cooler temperatures are desired. Quality white wines are usually consumed sooner than red wines but can benefit by cooler storage. In this case the esters, or fruity character disappear more rapidly at warmer temperatures.
During cellar construction, minimize the potential sources of cool loss within the room. This will allow for the most controlled environment for your prized wine collection.
View our selection of wine coolers with adjustable temperature controls, and wine cellar cooling units for full environmental control.
Storage humidity levels should ideally be between 50-70%, not much higher, nor lower. This humidity level reduces cork shrinkage. Cork deterioration allows oxygen to slowly leak into the bottle, causing oxidation and the conversion of the wine into its acidic form vinegar. Wine that tastes bitter or vinegary is usually the result of failed corking causing wine oxidation.
3. Wine Storage Angle:
Wine corks are typically made from the bark of cork oak trees. The cork oak (Quercus. suber) is native to the Mediterranean region, where most of the world's commercial supply of cork is obtained. After about 10 years in the bottle the cork sometimes deteriorates, with the rate of deterioration being affected by ambient storage temperature and humidity. Warmer and excessively humid storage environments cause growth of molds, which attack both the cork and the label. Insufficient humidity may cause the cork to dry and crumble, in which case it should be replaced.
When wine is stored on its side, the cork remains wet. When wet, the transmission of air through the cork into the wine is minimized. When bottles are stored upright, eventually drying out the cork, oxygen in the air causes chemical changes in the wine, spoiling it. The cork may come loose due to pressure changes, causing leakage of wine or permitting exposure to air.
View our wine racks with several configurations of side angled bottle holders that also help reduce vibration, for longer term storage options.
For long-term storage, wall anchored wooden racks are typically the best option as the wood dampens any micro-vibration, and wall anchoring helps to eliminate any sway in the racks. Woods like redwood, non-aromatic cedar and mahogany are best for your racking system because they respond well to the cool, moist environment of a wine cellar and it does not impart any negative odor that may be absorbed into the bottle as the wine ages.
View our selection of wood wine racks for cellar and open area storage. These wooden racks have smooth radius edge which helps prevent vintage label tearing or damage.
5. Lighting and Darkness:
Ultra-Violet light can cause oxidization of the tannins, causing an unpleasant aroma, thus ruining the wine.
While dark colored bottles help shield wine from sunlight, ultraviolet light can penetrate even dark colored glass. Storing wine in dark conditions is essential to keep wine from spoiling.
Whenever possible, put your cellar lights on a timer. If you ever forget to turn off the lights in your wine cellar, the timer will do it for you; keeping your wine safe. Also in cellars, utilize low wattage surface mounted lighting to minimize additional heat in the room and avoid any cool loss that may occur with holes for pot lights. While pot lights may seem like a good decorative idea, they are never insulated well enough and are not recommended for wine cellars. It should also be noted that low wattage, non heat emitting lights are better for wine storage than fluorescent lighting.
Note that sparkling wines are more sensitive to light and should be given extra care when storing these wines.
Proper ventilation is critical for long-term wine storage as it allows for sufficient air-flow to help eliminate odor build-up or mold, which can harm wine bottle corks and labels.
During wine cellar planning and construction, it is critical to include an adequate method of ventilation and air-flow. Many cellar cooling units are designed to provide optimal filtration and ventilation solutions for cellars of varying sizes.
View our line-up of wine cellar cooling systems to optimize your wine cellar environment.
Ullage refers to the unfilled air space at the top of a bottle of wine between the cork and the wine itself.
Typically, a short distance suggests a newer wine or that an older wine has been properly stored. A greater distance suggests an older bottle of wine that has likely had some sort of depletion potentially due to improper storage or defective cork.
However, some ullage does occur naturally over longer periods of time even if there is proper storage, as cork is a permeable material.
A large ullage gap in the bottle suggests that the wine has potentially been spoiled and should probably not be consumed.
8. Glass Shape:
Wine glasses that have a deeper bowl and are tapered in toward the top are best for tasting your finest wines. The tapering has a dual effect:
1. The tapering of the glass helps to contain the aromas that are released by swirling.
2. Helps to prevent wine from swirling out of the glass.
Typically, white wines should be served in a tulip shaped glass, red wines should be served in a glass that has a more rounded and larger bowl, and sparkling wines should be served glasses are tall and thin (like champagne glasses). If you do not have the recommended glass, a suitable all-purpose wine glass should hold 10 ounces, be transparent and have a slight curve at the top.
Extensive research has been completed on bowl depth and tapering angle should be unique to each type of wine. Various glass factors will determine how the wine is poured into the mouth and hits the various areas of the tongue...... but that discussion goes far beyond the scope of this summary of tips! But here's a start!
View our wide selection of stemware and wine glasses.
9. Pouring Method:
For the initial tasting to check to ensure wine is not corked, pour a small amount into your wine glass. Swish and sniff prior to drinking. Inspect the cork for dryness, crumbling, or if completely saturated. The cork and/or the wine itself may smell moldy, indicating spoiling or that the wine is corked.
If the wine is appropriate for consumption and ready for pouring.... set glass on hard surface, pour wine directly into it toward the center of the glass which helps to release the aromas. Twist slightly as you turn up the bottle to stop pouring, this will help to control drips. Fill the glass only a small portion as this space for further aeration and swirling.
Never put dairy products in wine glasses. Although glassware looks smooth, microscopic pits can trap dairy particles causing odors that will taint the wine.
Decanting wine is a preference, but should certainly be done with older reds that may contain sediments. Before decanting, let the bottle rest upright to allow any sediment to sink to the bottom, then slowly pour the wine at an angle enough to prevent any sediment from entering the decanter or use a filter when pouring.
View our various lines of decanters.
10. Breathe Your Wine:
No, don't inhale it.... let it breathe.
The purpose of letting wine breathe, or aerate, is to allow the wine to come in contact with the surrounding air helping to slightly warm it, causing the wine's aromas to open up and be present. The flavor will tend to soften while the overall flavor characteristics will improve.
Red wines benefit most from breathing, however select whites will also improve with air exposure. Typically, most wines will improve with as little as 15-20 minutes breathe time. However, young wines with high tannin levels need more time to breathe. As an example, a young Cabernet Sauvignon may require about an hour for proper breathing and flavor softening to take place. Older wines (8+ years) should be allowed to breath in a decanter and may take longer time. This allows greater surface area for the wine to come in contact with the air.
Whenever possible, do not let your wine breathe in the bottle it is stored. There is not sufficient surface layer contact and air flow to have any effect of the opening of the wine. Use a decanter or wine glass to let wine breathe.
In general, the more tannins in a wine (usually determined by the darkness of the wine), the more time it will need to breathe. Lighter-bodied red wines such as Pinot Noir that have lower tannin levels will need less time to breathe.
11. BONUS TIP: Storage After Opening
Prolonged exposure to heat and open air causes wine to oxidize and become acidic. Keep opened wine re-corked (or use a wine stopper) in the refrigerator immediately after opening to slow the oxidation process. Re-corked wine should safely last two to three days in the refrigerator. If storing longer than a few days, use a bottle preservation system!
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