I was chatting to one of our customers the other day who recounted that he had once used a shed in Paris for the purposes of storing his wine. I didn’t find this unusual, but was dismayed to learn that he had ended up pouring the entire contents down the sink. ‘Why?’, I asked, to which he replied that the whole lot had been lost to the frost. Disaster! Or had he made a potentially fateful assumption that if one bottle was damaged, then all of it had to go?
These days, finding space to store wine can be a challenge. I keep mine in an old coal bunker at the bottom of the garden and I know many who use a knicker drawer as a supposedly ‘safe haven’ for wine that is too young to drink (why the knicker/wine correlation, I’ve no idea)! The crux to ensuring wine is allowed to mature safely is to provide maximum protection to the closure and to avoid any extreme temperature change.
Cork is a great closure and it’s no wonder it’s been around for centuries. But let a cork dry out and it will shrivel and eventually disintegrate, thus allowing air to flow into the wine (oxidation) and ultimately turning the wine to vinegar. Wine should be stored lying down (or better still at a 45 degree angle), keeping the wine in contact with the cork at all times.
Extreme heat is an absolute no-no for wine. The expansion of the wine will literally push the cork right out of the bottle. Once this starts happening, raise the alarm bells and save your wine!
Freezing temperatures are equally ill-advised, with the same expansion/contraction leading to bottles cracking or exploding. On the other hand, a few minutes in the freezer to bring a Sauvignon down to desirable temperature is a common practice and I’m not one to dispute its efficacy at all.
Wine generally freezes at around -12 degrees, so not too much to worry about in the UK. What you may find, however, is wine stored in the winter months at around zero degrees (+ or -) may become cloudy and lose it character. Don’t panic just yet…. bring the wine into the warmth of the house when you’re ready to drink it; leave by the radiator to gently bring the contents back to room temperature, and you’ll re-discover a perfectly clear wine with its character intact. Don’t be surprised to find a harmless sediment in the base of the bottle – this is just the ‘lees’ that have naturally filtered out of the wine.