Conservation and cellaring

temperature, humidity, light

What factors affect the conservation of wine ?

To take full advantage of the bouquet of a mature wine and its slowly evolved aromas, the cellaring conditions are of crucial importance: temperature, humidity, light or vibration are all factors to watch for.

Does wine benefit from cellaring ?

Generally speaking, the graphed potential of a cellared wine resembles a bell curve:wine quality improves over the first few years, reaches its pinnacle, and then gradually decreases in value.

Which wines are to be cellared and which ones should be enjoyed young ?

The profile of a wine that benefits from cellaring is variable depending on the type of wine and depending on the vintage. Generally speaking, it is estimated that more a wine is opulent, the longer it may be cellared. With few exceptions,cellaring tends to impair frail wines.

An example of such a case ?

In cool and rainy years (1992 Bordeaux vintage), the wine is lean and has a low potential for preservation, its maturing aptitude low and its evolution quick.
Conversely, in hot, dry years (2003 Bordeaux vintage), the wines are rich, powerful and concentrated and the bell curve will be amplified and prolonged. The main principle is to savor the bottles at their best moments, although it is pleasant to allow oneself to be surprised by a wines by waiting for time to work it magic !

What is the impact of moisture ?

Humidity has an effect on the conservation the cork. Too little, and a small cork risks dehydration, leading to a “leaky” bottle (a shrunken cork buries itself in the neck and the wine evaporates and oxidizes). Too much, and mold may develop on the visible part of the cork (this does not, however, endanger the wine in any way, but does degrade the label, which quickly becomes unreadable). Ideal conditions involve a humidity of 70 to 75% .
Equipment can be purchased for controlling this factor: namely a humidifier or dehumidifier. Generally, underground caves possessing clay or soil floors provide an ideal and unchanging atmosphere. It is certainly not recommended to leave bottles in cartons or wooden cases. If necessary, one should always remove the lid and leave the bottles inside.

What is the impact of light ?

The light should be as dim as possible. Although the bottles filter most UV rays, it is believed that wine stores better in darkened areas. As an added benefit, the charm of a dark cave which contains hidden treasures is unparalleled !

What is the impact of vibrations ?

If possible, avoid an unnecessary vibrations and handling that will rouse sediment (or wine crystals) and cause an astringency that distorts the quality of the wine. One should make an effort to not disturb cellared bottles.

Some miscellaneous advice ?

- Always store bottles horizontally (except for spirits which could slowly dissolve their own cap !)
- Do not shift or turn champagne bottles, this will counteract the conservation process !
- Check the fill levels of bottles sorted for over 20 years, if the wine has evaporated, the bottle must be topped up (this should be seen with the producer). 
- Odorous substances should not be stored in a wine cellar (paint, food...)