From seller to cellar: tips to properly store and age wine

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We may not be able to travel overseas just yet but while national borders remain on COVID-19, lockdown, you can freely roam the world today with a glass full of wonders from the finest vineyards in France, Italy, Spain, the United States and even Argentina.

Fine wine is absolute class served up in a glass and has the magical ability to instantly transport you to far-off exotic places that many Rand-locked South Africans only ever get to admire from a distance on the Travel Channel.

Mention of Rhône, Bordeaux, or Napa Valley enlivens wine connoisseurs with visions of dusty bottles of decades aged wines carefully stored in musty old subterranean cellars to become far more than what it was when originally bottled.

When ageing wine, there is no substitute for time and patience and just the history alone captured in every individual bottle makes it worth the high prices fetched at wine auctions.

The time-honored tradition of cellaring had its humble beginnings, centuries ago, when wine was kept in large clay jugs called amphora. Even before that, the Ancient Romans aged wine in catacombs (underground cemeteries).

However, the ageing of wine only really took off with the union of glass bottles and cork in the 1600’s. Prior to this technological leap, wine bottles were sealed with handmade glass toppers or rags soaked in olive oil.

underground wine cellar for aging wine

Obviously these were not quite as airtight as cork stoppers and oxidation was more likely. Oxidation happens when air gets into a bottle, causing the conversion of acetaldehyde to acetic acid, turning the wine to vinegar.

In keeping with modern society’s fast-paced and instant lifestyle, 99% of today’s wines are released at their peak and do not require ageing after purchase.

Today, grapes are harvested in a riper state which gives the wine a softer, rounder feel and there is, therefore, less need for cellaring – further cellaring might actually spoil the wine.

Yet, older, mature bottles of wine like a Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Paulillac 1er Cru Classé, 1982 possess a palate texture, flavour profile and aromatic complexities that cannot be replicated in younger wines.

These wines are rare, expensive and demand very precise conditions for storage and ageing at home.

How to store and age wine

Key to storing and ageing fine wine is temperature, humidity, and lack of light and vibration. Cooler temperatures mature wine slower and increase the wine’s lifespan while warmer temperatures negatively impact the quality of the wine.

Wine Storage Temparature

The ideal temperature for storing wine is 12.8° Celcius (55° Fahrenheit ) and in South Africa with its warm sub-tropical climate and substantial temperature fluctuation from summer to winter, your best bet is a high-quality wine cooler.

Optimum Humidity For Wine Storage

To prevent oxidation, wine bottles have to remain tightly sealed. Humidity is critical in preserving the elasticity of the cork as it protects the cork from drying out and letting air into the bottle.

Humidity inside the bottle is 100% and protects the portion of the cork inside the bottle. Optimal external/ambient humidity is 70-80% to protect the portion of the cork that is not in contact with the wine.

Investment wine

While humidity above 80% may be good for the wine, it is bad for the wine labels. If you are planning to sell your investment wine at a later stage, a damaged label will reduce the selling price.

Light & Vibration Affect Wine

wine stored at low light and low vibration

Light and vibration are two of wine’s biggest nemeses – especially when it comes to red wine. White wine is not aged as long and therefore can be stored in clear bottles. Light radiates heat and also changes the chemical makeup of wine which affects the taste – hence the reason red wine comes in dark bottles.

Vibrations – for example inside regular fridges – cause chemical reactions which adversely affect how the wine develops during maturation.

One should never shake a bottle of red wine as this will agitate sediment and give the wine an unpleasant taste. Once disturbed, sediment takes a long time to settle and you will need to save that bottle for another night.

All this may seem over the top but the rewards of proper cellaring outweigh the cost in time and money. Never compromise when choosing a wine cooler, whether for your primary home, Umhlanga holiday apartment or restaurant.

SnoMaster Wine Coolers

fine wine storage

Investing in a SnoMaster wine cooler is a sure way to score points with friends and family as well as reward you with the feeling of classic luxury in every glass of fine wine.

SnoMaster’s superior range of wine coolers is expertly designed to cool, preserve and age your fine wine collection. Built with low vibration compressors to reduce disturbance of the sediment in the wine, the natural ageing process unfolds undisturbed to enhance taste and bring out the rich aromas of your wine.

Our single zone and dual zone wine coolers range from the compact 145 litre under counter wine cooler for your holiday apartment or commercial restaurant to the top-end 181 bottle and triple door dual-zone models.

For those who lead by example, we offer the flagship Pro Series. These highly sought after beauties are the product of years spent perfecting wine storage and ageing technology.

The Snomaster high-performance cooling system offers near-silent, ultra-low vibration operation and precision digital temperature control for flawless ageing. Combining luxurious finishes, tempered glass and natural beach wood shelving, this series is the pinnacle of wine cooling and ageing in the modern home.

Here is Luxe Digital’s list of World’s 15 best wines to fill your new SnoMaster wine cooler with:

FFrench Bordeaux wine collection
  1. Adrianna Vineyard            Best overall wine
  2. Sine Qua None                        Best premium
  3. Grgich Hills Estate                 Best value
  4. Screaming Eagle                     Most expensive
  5. Heitz Cellar                             Best Cabernet Sauvignon
  6. Masseto                                  Best Merlot
  7. Wayfarer Golden Mean        Best Pinot Noir
  8. Ramey Rohioli Vinyard        Best Chardonnay
  9. Cloudy Bay                              Best Sauvignon Blanc
  10. Terlato Family Vineyards   Best Pinot Gris
  11. Robert Weil                             Best Riesling
  12. Penfolds St. Henri                 Best Syrah
  13. Carlisle Papera Ranch         Best Zinfandel
  14. Chateau Latour                     Best bottle to invest in
  15. Château d’Yquem                  Best vintage to drink this year

Do you have any South Africa favourites that you think should be on the list?

Let us know in the comments.

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