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.
History of Wine Storage
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.
Challenges When Storing Wines
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 Wine
The key to storing 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.
Try to Keep Your Wine at the Ideal Temperature
Red wines, white wines, and Champagnes each have their own unique temperature requirements for storage. They also each have different ideal serving temperatures with further variations within a colour category.
To get the best out of red wine it should be kept at a constant temperature of between 12 and 19 degrees Celsius
White wines are best stored between 8 and 12 degrees Celsius, but when it comes to serving, different white wines are served at different temperatures. For example, Chardonnay should be stored at 10 degrees Celsius, but served at 9 degrees Celsius, while Riesling is stored and served at 8 degrees Celsius.
Champagne flourishes at 5 to 8 degrees Celsius.
In South Africa with its warm sub-tropical climate and substantial temperature fluctuation from summer to winter, your best bet of keeping your wine collection at the ideal temperature is a high-quality wine cooler.
To achieve optimum drinking temperature for each, look for a dual-zone wine fridge for red and white wines or a series of smaller wine coolers for reds, whites and Champagnes respectively.
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. Ideal external/ambient humidity is 70-80% to protect the portion of the cork that is not in contact with the wine.
Also, consider installing a climate control system to regulate temperature and humidity levels if necessary so that wines that will be consumed at a later stage can safely be stored in wine racks.
In terms of flooring, opt for hardwood, tile, vinyl, stone or marble. Although carpeting is cosy and warm, it is a big no-no when storing wine as it could develop mould and mildew due to the high humidity levels, especially in coastal areas.
Preserve Your Wine Labels
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.
Keep Your Wine Bottles Away from Light and Vibration
Light and vibration are two of wine’s biggest nemeses – especially when it comes to red wine. Light radiates heat and also changes the chemical makeup of wine which affects the taste – hence the reason red wine comes in dark bottles.
Because of this, your wine collection should ideally be stored in a dark place. A room that is away from exterior walls and windows is ideal as it will be the least affected by light and exterior temperature changes. One such space is under the staircases where the temperature is most stable.
White wine is not aged as long and therefore can be stored in clear bottles. White wines that are light-sensitive come in darker bottles to help protect against harmful UV light and windows can simply be covered up with modern block-out blinds and the door kept shut to keep out light.
Stick to LED lighting as they do not generate heat and contribute to maintaining the ideal temperature for your wines.
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.
Invest in a High-quality Wine Cooler
If you do not have the time or resources to build a full-fledged wine cellar, a more affordable option for ageing wine at home is investing in a high-quality wine cooler.
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 SnoMaster 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 beech wood shelving, this series is the pinnacle of wine cooling and ageing in the modern home.
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.
Here is Luxe Digital’s list of World’s 15 best wines to fill your new SnoMaster wine cooler with:
- Adrianna Vineyard Best overall wine
- Sine Qua None Best premium
- Grgich Hills Estate Best value
- Screaming Eagle Most expensive
- Heitz Cellar Best Cabernet Sauvignon
- Masseto Best Merlot
- Wayfarer Golden Mean Best Pinot Noir
- Ramey Rohioli Vinyard Best Chardonnay
- Cloudy Bay Best Sauvignon Blanc
- Terlato Family Vineyards Best Pinot Gris
- Robert Weil Best Riesling
- Penfolds St. Henri Best Syrah
- Carlisle Papera Ranch Best Zinfandel
- Chateau Latour Best bottle to invest in
- Château d’Yquem Best vintage to drink this year
Do you have any South African wine favourites that you think should be on the list?
Let us know in the comments.