Strange as it may sound, there is only a thin line separating your favorite white wine from a bottle of cheap vinegar. As many amateur connoisseurs discover to their horror, wine can cross the proverbial bridge all too easily if exposed to the wrong conditions. While wine storage equipment like wine coolers or cellars guard against a majority of wrong conditions, you may still end up with finely labelled vinegar if you don’t avoid these cardinal mistakes.
Keeping Bottles Upright
Unlike a good many alcoholic drinks, wine bottles must never be kept upright. Bottles sitting on their bottoms would inevitably have a gap between the cork and the surface of the wine. This gap makes the cork more susceptible to drying out. Once the cork dries out, air seeps into the bottle and hastens the process of turning wine into vinegar.
Secondly, since the wine sits in the shape of a long cylinder, precipitation of “sediments” occurs over time, reducing the taste. Since there is no way to reverse this process – even after you’ve opened the bottle – such sedimentation causes permanent loss of taste.
Mixing Up The Temperatures
Each wine has its own temperature range depending on its nature and age. If you are new to the world of wines, you may even ask the seller/brewer what the ideal wine storage temperature range should be. Once you have 3-4 different types of wines with distinct storage temperature ranges, you should ensure that only those wines that have broadly similar temperature ranges are placed together. Since most modern wine refrigerators come with two temperature zones, such segregation isn’t a very costly affair.
Shake Before Use
Wines represent a complex microcosm of organic compounds, some of which are susceptible to vibrations. Further, there may be small particles suspended in the wine that enhance its flavor. Shaking wrecks this system of fine balances and in doing so, accelerates the ageing process. As such, wines should be stored in areas far away from roads, workshops involving power tools and pumps. Indeed, you should even avoid moving them more than necessary as even minor movement involves a good deal of shaking.
Let there be light!
Wines contain photosensitive compounds that can degenerate on exposure to the UV rays present in sunlight (or even artificial light). While minimal lighting is required to ensure your and your bottle’s safety during handling, you would do well to avoid keeping the wine bottles in a well-lit area. As a corollary, you should also avoid areas that witness rapid changes in the intensity of light.
Considering the myriad threats to the integrity of a wine’s taste, it is not surprising that only those with cool and dark basements could afford large wine collections in the middle ages. Thankfully, modern wine storage, along with some careful handling, can negate most of these risks today. While ageing of wines would still take place (since it is a natural process), keeping the above in mind will ensure that such ageing occurs the way it is supposed to and most importantly, contributes to the improvement in taste rather than its ruin.