How to store wine… (when it’s 46 degrees outside)


Wine / Friday, January 25th, 2019

Dear Summer,

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but could you turn it down a notch or two? 

Don’t get me wrong – I love your crisp sunny mornings on days when the maximum is 28 degrees. And your balmy nights when you can sit outside with a glass of wine and watch the sun go down. I’ll even put up with mid-30’s if there is a pool nearby. But 46? Seriously? Come on, now you’re just having a lend.

I’ve had enough. Not even a frosty glass of Rosé will save me today (even though I’m willing to give it a try!).

And spare a thought for the poor little grapes aspiring to become the next bottle of expertly crafted Somerled wine.

With love (although you make it very hard),

Your hot, sweaty, tired, and grumpy friend.

 

We’ll have a quick chat about what is happening in the vineyard a little later but first, let’s visit a question that will be on a lot of people’s minds this week….

 

WINE STORAGE

So, you don’t have a cellar and you’re saving up for a wine fridge (let’s face it, those things aren’t cheap). But you have a couple of bottles that you know are going to age pretty nicely and would like to put them away for a special occasion (like Wednesday). Where and how are you going to store them?

Rob wasn’t much help when I asked him… “Just drink them”, he said!

For those of us who want to hang onto a 2013 Cape d’estang Sparkling Cabernet or a 2003 Somerled Shiraz for a little while longer, here are a few tips.

Temperature

While the ideal temperature for storing wine is between 12 and 14 degrees (where a wine fridge comes in handy), the key is to find the coolest and darkest part of your house. Think cupboard built toward the middle of your house, not the outer walls, under internal staircases or on the bottom shelf of your pantry. Wine can survive quite nicely at temperatures above optimum. What it doesn’t like is extremes of hot and cold. A spot in the house which is consistent in temperature is perfect.

I probably don’t need to say this, but just in case… don’t store in hot places like an uninsulated shed or garage, near a fireplace, or on top of a cupboard. That’s a sure fire way to “cook” your wine. Also, if the wine is under cork, the expansion of the air in the neck of the bottle can push the cork out, causing oxidation.

What about the fridge? While this is ok for short term storage of a couple of months, it’s not recommended for long term cellaring. A spare old fridge turned down can often be a good storage option though. You just need to add a tray of water (read on for why…).

Humidity

This a hard one to control but just make sure the spot you choose isn’t too dry (one of the reasons the fridge isn’t the ideal spot). Wine under cork prefers to be stored at around 50% humidity. Anything less than this will dry the cork out and lead to oxidation of the wine. The acceptable range is anywhere between 50 and 80%. Anything more than this and there is a risk of mildew or mould damaging the cork and/or the wine (but only if the bottle isn’t properly sealed).

If the area you have chosen is not humid enough, you can always add a tray of water to artificially create a more humid environment.

Vibration

For short term storage, vibration isn’t too much of an issue. However, if you’re storing wine over several years, this can have a huge effect on the quality, flavours, aromas, and texture. It can cause a chemical imbalance in the wine. So, please don’t store your wine next to appliances like dishwashers, washing machines or dryers.

Light

Ultraviolet (UV) light will degrade and prematurely mature your wine. In fact, it is one of the reasons wines designed to age are bottled in coloured-glass bottles. Light from internal light sources aren’t so bad as the sun coming in from a nearby window, but fluorescent bulbs do emit very small amounts of UV light.

Standing up or lying down?

If the wine is under cork, then you definitely want to lie it down. Keeping the wine in contact with the cork keeps it moist and stops it from drying out. For other closures like screwcaps, it doesn’t make too much difference.

How long?

Of course, this depends on the wine. According to Rob, good wines aren’t going to improve much more after 10 years. Having said that his 2001 Somerled Shiraz still has some life left in it! My personal advice is, don’t push your luck. There is nothing worse than hanging onto something for too long and finding out it is past the point of no return.

 

Wine is a living thing… it is constantly changing even well after it has been bottled. And while the bottle and the closure go in some way to helping protect the wine inside, it still needs a little TLC from you to make sure it lasts the distance. And if you are consistently cellaring high-end wines, then a wine fridge isn’t a bad investment.

Or, you can just follow Rob’s advice and drink it!

 

VINTAGE UPDATE

In short, as long as the vines have been getting plenty of water, they will have survived the heat ok. The grapes still haven’t reached veraison, so they’re not at the most critical stage in terms of heat stress. Also, as long as there is enough canopy (ie. a lot of leaves on the vines) to protect the young berries, they will have come through the last few days relatively unscathed.

We’ve had several days this week (and last) which have been at (and over) the threshold (approximately 38°C) where the vines shut down photosynthesis to conserve moisture. This just means that vintage will be longer than normal. Last week the region was running 1-2 weeks behind the long term average. I will update when I get this weeks crop report but I’d suggest it’s more like 2-3 weeks behind now.

The other thing to note at the moment is that other cops (cherries, apples and pears, etc.) have already reported severe crop loss to birds which is amongst the worst seen in the last decade. Grape growers are recommended to implement bird control strategies as soon as possible to avoid crop loss.

 

PS. Apologies to those of you who got this week’s blog email at 12.30 AM – I blame the heat!

 

4 thoughts on “How to store wine… (when it’s 46 degrees outside)

  1. Very helpful advice delivered with wit and humour! Thanks Maree – I’ll keep your advice in mind (although I have to say, I’ll probably follow Rob’s advice and drink it)!!

  2. Thanks for this one Maree… you should try stand up comedy! 🤪😁😂
    I always drink my oldest Somerled Shiraz before I throw the rest in the back of the car and move interstate!
    Saving for the wine fridge for my birthday. Keep cool 😎

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