Imagine spending a fortune on procuring fine wines and then not storing them properly? It would be a wasted investment. Picture: Miele.
Imagine spending a fortune on procuring fine wines and then not storing them properly? It would be a wasted investment. Picture: Miele.

Tried and tested tips for keeping your fine wines at their best

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Nov 4, 2020

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Imagine spending a fortune on procuring fine wines and then not storing them properly? It would be a wasted investment.

So how does one store them properly, besides getting an appliance, there are certain basics you can follow.

Different types of wine stores are different. It's not a one size fits all situation.

Full-bodied reds

Full-bodied reds are darker, bolder wines and have an alcohol percentage of 13.5%. This is because a large portion of the flavour comes from the skins of the grapes. Full-bodied wines have more complex flavours and have a richer mouthfeel. Full-bodied wines include cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, shiraz, merlot and malbec. These are best stored at 17°C to 19°C.

Light- to medium-bodied reds

These wines have an alcohol content of between 12.5 and 13.5% and more tannins than a light-bodied red wine but less than a full-bodied red wine. These wines pair very well with food, thanks to the acidity. These wines include merlot, shiraz, tempranillo, pinot noir, grenache, barbera and nebbiolo. The ideal storage temperature is between 12°C to 16°C.

Dry whites

Thanks to their crisp flavours and ability to pair with foods, dry white wines are very popular with most people. They are also the most versatile style of wine to cook with, as the dry, crispness of the wine adds to the flavour of the dish. Dry white wines include sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnays, rieslings, viogniers and pinot gris. These are best stored between 8°C to 12°C.

Sparkling and sweet wines

Bubbly, it is said, is the most technical wine in the world, as it undergoes a second fermentation to make bubbles. Also, the winemaker has to make a lot of changes that are likely to affect the way the final wine tastes. The same goes for sweet wines- the vintner determines the sweetness of the wine. Sweet wines are usually heavier, with a rich taste and are obviously sweet. This is due to grapes with high sugar content being used in winemaking. Sweet wines include moscato, white zinfandel, rieslings, port and sauternes. Sparkling wines include Champagne, MCC, Prosecco, cava, etc. These are best stored at 5°C to 8°C.

Liam Gawne from the appliance manufacturer and creator of wine conditioning units, Miele has shared some tips on how you can keep fine wines at their best.

He says although any good quality wine conditioning unit should provide the ultimate safe storage for all types of wines, it is important to remember that only a small percentage of wines that are on the market benefit from long-term storage. He says that the majority of available wines are best enjoyed within a few years of release.

“Whether you are interested in storing wines for short-, medium- or long-term enjoyment, he notes that a good quality wine conditioning unit, such as those from Miele for example, will be able to provide optimum storage conditions for any type of wine,” says Gawne.

Gawane provides the following guidelines on what to consider when storing your wine collection.

Keep your cool

One of wine’s biggest enemies is heat – any temperature over 21°C will have the undesirable effect of unnecessarily speeding up the ageing process, resulting in flat aromas and flavours. Ideally, the wine needs to be stored at a constant temperature of between 7°C and 19°C.

Constant and steady

For optimum wine storage conditions, you need to be able to keep the climate as steady and constant as possible. Avoid rapid, extreme, or frequent temperature swings, as this will result in cooked flavours, and the expansion and contraction of the liquid inside the bottle can end up pushing the cork out or causing seepage.

Turn off the lights

UV rays can cause chemical reactions in wine causing them to degrade and age prematurely. As such light, and especially sunlight can pose a serious problem for long-term wine storage. This is why wine is sold in coloured glass bottles, as they cut down the penetration of the UV rays.

No such thing as good vibrations

It is thought that vibrations can damage wine in the long-term, as it helps to speed up the chemical reactions in the liquid. It also disturbs the sediment in older wines, preventing them from settling and making them unpleasantly gritty.

Avoid other aromas

Another imperative for safely storing wine is keeping it in an odourless environment. Over time, exposure to foods with pungent aromas can seep into the wine through the cork and damage it. As a result, any wine unit worth its salt should have a built-in air filter to purify the air.

Cellar Master at Zonnebloem wines, Elize Coetzee also recently shared some tips for storing and ageing your wine with IOL Lifestyle. Coetzee said that there is undoubtedly a romantic allure around ageing a fine wine over several years.

She said it’s almost as though opening and enjoying a beautifully aged wine offers people a way to go back in time and relive a special year, or even experience something from a romanticised time before theirs.

Coetzee cautioned that, however, there is a special art to storing and ageing quality wines and one cannot just stash a bottle away in any old cupboard and expect it to magically reach its optimal taste and texture.

“Aside from knowing which varieties can benefit from ageing, there is an art to the process, as well as knowing when a wine is at its best and the time is right to remove it from the cellar for consumption,” she said.

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