All right investor, you’ve made it. You’ve been clever with your pennies and the pounds have looked after themselves. You’ve done it all right – taken advice, read up on your subjects, chose a nice wine investment app, and created a wide and varied portfolio. The time has come to finally, finally, reap a few rewards. So, where do you start?
Well, the obvious answer is to perhaps release a little of your capital assets so you can enjoy them. And nothing is more enjoyable than a gorgeous bottle of Lafite that you’ve been keeping for a special occasion.
Why Is It Important to Store Your Wine Properly?
There are all sorts of things that need to be considered when storing wine. Because fine wine, like fine women, is fickle. These are bottles that are worth more than a cruise, so you want to make sure that you’re getting the best, right? I mean, you wouldn’t park your Bugatti Verone on the street, would you? No, of course not. Well, storing wine at home is the same thing.
Starting a wine collection at home needn’t be as daunting as you think. Just follow these simple rules and you’ll be sipping your Sigalas in no time.
Why Wine Storage Matters When Investing
Professional wine storage is always, always recommended for investors when looking to store for over five years. Wine is an incredible asset that is proven to increase over time, but only when it remains drinkable. Storing it wrong will result in the wine going bad, ergo in losing your source market for resale. Never, ever forget that wine is an asset with a literal shelf life and in order for you to make the potential fortune that keeps being promised, storage is tantamount. However, if professional storage isn’t an option for whatever reason, let’s look at the next best thing: how to store wine at home. After all, you don’t want your Belgrave to go bad before anyone has had a chance to taste it now, do you?
The 7 Golden Rules to Wine Storage
- Cool Temperature Is Key
Fine wine favours the Goldilocks approach to temperature. That means that it can’t be too hot, or too cold, and only when it is “just right” can it be effectively stored for any length of time. Even temperatures are optimal, which is why many home storers prefer to invest in a wine fridge. Cool temperatures are best – think somewhere between 14-18 degrees celsius (purists will keep their wine fridge at a constant 16 degrees). The average kitchen fridge is kept at 4 degrees celsius, so we don’t think we need to tell you that this is not an answer for your prized Petrus. Temperatures below 14°C lack moisture and can dry out the cork causing oxidation. Temperatures above 18°C can degrade the wine, effectively “cooking” it which will leave flat, dull flavours. So rooms that have high temperatures – kitchens, laundry rooms, boiler rooms etc should be avoided at all costs.
- Always Check the Humidity
You will hear two letters when talking about how to store wine at home: RH. These stand for relative humidity and are super important to think about when thinking about how best to protect your investment. RH is a fickle mistress – too humid and mould can appear. This shouldn’t affect the taste of your properly sealed bottles but it can affect the labels which can, in turn, affect the resale value. However, a low RH will dry out the corks (the same reason as to why wine is kept at 14°C or above), causing the dreaded oxidation and effective destruction of your collection. Not good.
The ideal RH is somewhere between 50-80%. If your cellar is too dry, you can add a bowl of water to up the humidity in the air. If the RH is too high, a dehumidifier will do the job. Invest in a climate control system that will allow you to oversee conditions and you’re golden.
- Turn the Lights Off
There are all sorts of reasons why turning off the lights is a good idea. From setting the mood for a little bit of ooh la la to saving the planet’s energy, we could all go over to the dark side from time to time. And, like a mother with a teenage daughter, fine wine should be kept in the dark as much as possible.
Placing your wine in a well lit, sunny room means that you risk damaging it. Strong and direct light (this means both electric and natural) causes the wine to be “lightstruck”. Lightstrike occurs when a wine is exposed to blue and ultraviolet light, resulting in the transformation of amino acids. Fruit flavours become first tainted, then completely overpowered by distinctly un-winey smells of overcooked cabbage, damp cardboard, and sewage. Lightstrike is particularly a problem when laying down whites and sparkling wines – their light colour not only attracts the light but the lighter coloured bottle does little to protect the wine inside.
If you have a perfect place for your wine cellar but it’s a bit bright, then some DIY workarounds could be to keep your wine in a closed cabinet or chest or just wrap them tightly in a cloth. Job done.
- Always Place the Bottles Horizontal
With only 10% of the world’s wine being age worthy wine, you might think, “what does it matter if I store my wine upright or lying down?”. Well, yes, if you want to drink it immediately, then a couple of weeks or even years on its bottom won’t really harm it. However, when looking to age a wine for investment reasons, positioning is key. It is important for wine to be laid on its side for two reasons. One: you need to keep the cork moist to prevent the dreaded oxidation. When laid down horizontally, the cork is in constant contact with the liquid, thus it can’t dry out (ergo it can’t crack and let the air in). Clearly, this doesn’t affect screw-top wines, although so far, no fine wines to our knowledge have adopted the screw top. The other reason for getting horizontal is to determine the sediment that has formed prior to decanting. Sediment is necessary for ageing in older, red wines but won’t form if vertical. Also, let’s be honest, wine bottles take up less space and just look better when they’re lying down.
- Keep It Steady
Good vibrations are great when you’re on a yoga retreat or if you’re a beach boy, but if you’re a fine wine investor, they’re a big no. Vibration can cause a chemical imbalance in a wine, and disturb the sediments that need to settle in good quality red wine in order to make it age well. There are also theories that vibration speeds up the chemical reaction in liquid, thus making it undrinkable. Again, for short term storage, this isn’t a problem, but for the long term, you need to move away from the kitchen (too much footfall) or any rooms with electrical appliances such as a washing machine and a tumble dryer.
- Serve Wine at The Right Temperature
Not strictly about how to store wine at home this one, but so closely related that we couldn’t not mention it. When the time comes for you to finally break open the Bel-Air, you will want – and need – get the very best from it. So you will not only need to decant but wait for the wine to come up (or down) to the right serving temperature. Unfortunately, this is not an exact science.
Note that we’ve said “serving” temperature and not “room” temperature. The term “room temperature” was coined centuries ago, and it refers to drafty old castles on isolated Scottish moors. I’m guessing that these country piles were not centrally heated and probably maintained a brisk 12-15°C in the height of summer. So red wines should be served around that temperature. The exact temperature will be determined by the age of the wine (younger wines require cooler temperatures in order to open up while mature wines with a high tannic factor can be served a degree or so higher as the maturing process has already happened). White wines are served chilled, but not so cold that the taste is masked. Champagne and sparkling wines are served the coldest of everything. If you’re still confused, Jancis Robinson has a fantastic table on her website detailing how long wine should be decanted or refrigerated.
- Beware After Opening
Yes, some people actually don’t finish the bottle and save their Pomerol for another day. Apparently.
If you’re drinking a light red – think pinot noir – then understand that the delicate nature of these wines means they won’t last long once the cork is out. Older wines, such as wines over eight years will be more delicate after consumption too, as their preservation agents are less robust. Three days is probably the maximum for light and medium-bodied wines, while you can probably stretch it to five days for the big, bold reds.
White wines rely on freshness which almost evaporates after opening. Your time frame for whites is even smaller than for light reds – just one to three days max before your Viognier turns into vinegar.
Now that you know how to preserve the quality of your wine over time, learn how to sell your wine collection.