If you’ve invested in premium wine sealed under cork that isn’t for the “drink now” shelf, there are some important factors to consider to ensure the wine is stored in optimum conditions.
Most wine lovers couldn’t afford “the ideal” wine cellar upwards of $15-20,000, but new technology in the form of a humidifier can provide both novice and experienced wine buffs with a low-cost alternative that can be used to preserve and enhance the wine’s characteristics.
According to fine wine specialist, Alex Berry, who has 30 years’ experience as a professional fine wine consultant, educator and wholesaler, in researching this dilemma and consulting several of his colleagues and winemakers, along with his experience with wine storage, the key factors in correct wine storage are temperature, light, humidity and vibration — the lack of it.
“A few simple rules will reward anyone who lays down wines to enjoy at their optimum drinking age. Aim for a room that is dark, roomy, humidity controlled, has minimal vibration and is, ideally, temperature controlled,” Mr Berry said.
“It’s the fluctuation of temperature that is the most serious hazard for wine storage. While it’s generally accepted the ideal storage temperature is between 10-16°C, no harm will come to wine stored between 16-20°C for short periods, as long as the temperature does not fluctuate dramatically.”
A new school of thought from the globally respected wine authority, Jancis Robinson, suggests it may be better to store wines with corks at an angle, which ensures both wine and air bubble are in contact with the cork. This allows the cork to remain damp whilst allowing the expansion and contraction of the air bubble due to temperature variation, and resulting in air, not wine, passing through the cork.
Light is another factor that affects the premature ageing of wine, hence the reason why red wine bottles are dark and sparkling wines are often wrapped in tissue paper.
Humidity control a key factor
Adverse humidity plays an important role in wine storage, more than wine enthusiasts realise. But there is a simple solution.
Corks need to be kept moist and the ideal humidity in a cellar recognised as adequate to achieve this is 55-70%, states Alex Berry.
“Having low humidity of 50% and below can affect the oxygen level inside wines, the problem being that low humidity can dry out the natural cork material causing it to shrink, which can result in the possibility of losing wine from the bottle. Also, when oxidation takes place, the wine's pigmentation will decrease and loss of aromas and flavours will occur.
“When humidity is high, such as over 70%, mould can develop on organic surfaces such as wine corks, which affects the cork's quality and can taint the wine. It will also likely cause mould and degradation of the labels,” he said.
A cooling unit alone cannot add moisture or humidify cellar air. It needs a humidifier to achieve this.
To overcome high and low humidity, new generation humidifiers and dehumidifiers are the answer and extremely effective in maintaining the optimum humidity level for wine storage.
Alex Berry has been using an Andatech Ionmax humidity control unit in his insulated 3.5 x 3.5 metre cellar and found it to be very effective in controlling humidity levels.
“A wine fridge for long-term storage is highly regarded but they do come with a high price tag. A humidifier is another excellent option. It’s a fraction of the investment and produces the same result as an expensive wine cellar.”
An Ionmax ION90 humidifier has a built-in humidistat that shows the current humidity level and a hydrostat that allows the desired humidity level to be set and maintained. For example, at 60-70% relative humidity for wine storage.
Ionmax products have been highly rated and recommended by Choice with selected Ionmax humidity control units being Choice's number one "Overall Best Performer" for four years.
The ION90 is $299 and available from Andatech at: https://www.andatechdistribution.com.au/products/ionmax-ion90
About Alex Berry...
Alex Berry is a Fine Wine Specialist with more than 34 years in the wine business. Alex is a professional Fine Wine Specialist Consultant, Wine & Spirit educator, qualified and accredited Workplace Trainer and Assessor, Wholesaler, Marketer and Sales Executive. He has worked with a multinational wine & spirit company for 20 years, and as a consulting Manager/Sommelier, working hand in hand with several fine dining restaurants, this expertise has given Alex access to many of Australia's top iconic winemakers and wineries giving him a good understanding of optimal storage conditions on wine quality.