by Albert Cilia-Vincenti

“One barrel of wine can work more miracles than a church full of saints” – (Italian proverb)

Wine storage


This is a major problem because wine hasn’t got such a high content of alcohol, and has a far more complex organic chemical composition than spirits, and so is easily damaged and its chemical constituents altered by high temperatures.  It is of concern, particularly with our hot summers.


Obsessional wine aficionados will insist you need a subterranean wine cellar which is dark, vibration-free, damp and kept at a constant 13ºC.  Few of us have such ideal conditions.  Wine can in fact thrive quite happily, and develop well, in basements that reach 18ºC in summer.  If your storage place reaches up to 20ºC, or just over, you must keep in mind that your wines will mature a bit faster than what you read in wine publications, and you should therefore drink them earlier than the recommended ageing time spans.


Instead of being a drawback, these less than ideal storage conditions are actually better for average mortals like most of us, because they will offer you the opportunity of enjoying your quality wines earlier.  Wines stored at a constant 13º C will evolve so slowly that your grandchildren are the ones more likely to enjoy them at their peak.  This point should be kept in mind also by those who own professional wine storage cabinets – keeping wines at a temperature of 17/18ºC, rather than at 13ºC, will mature them faster, and also safely.


As long as a constant temperature is maintained, and any temperature change up to 18-20ºC and back down to winter temperature is very gradual, wines will not be damaged.  It is important to keep in mind that white wines are more fragile than reds, and if storage conditions are not ideal, ageing times for whites must be more drastically reduced.  These simple guidelines should therefore alert you to the fact that wine storage within kitchens or living rooms, where temperature fluctuates rapidly, is not suitable for wine storage.


The level of humidity in one’s wine storage arrangement is as important as the temperature.  A 70-75% level is ideal.  Higher humidity levels than 75% will damage the bottle labels with mould, although this high humidity is perfectly safe for the wine itself.  A level of below 40% will dry the corks and potentially shorten the life of the wine.  Therefore, one needs to be careful not to use a drying type of air-conditioning in a wine storage compartment – it would need to be a low temperature/high humidity type air-conditioning specifically made for wine storage areas.


Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions with wine storage is that most wines will not improve with storing and ageing. One may go to the trouble and expense of storing wines in the expectation that they are going to improve and offer higher levels of olfactory and gustatory pleasure, but only a minority can actually satisfy this expectation.  More on this interesting and controversial wine subject next time.


Albert Cilia-Vincenti is a long-standing member of The Wine Society (1874) of UK and founding committee member of “Il-Qatra” – a 60-member blind-tasting wine club of 10 years standing.