It’s sometimes difficult to strike the fine balance between a well-preserved bottle of red and one that has simply passed its use-by-date. There are a lot of factors in play, from the length of time your bottle is stored to the temperature, humidity and the wine’s closure.
As such, it can be an expensive exercise, especially if the end result slightly misses the mark on your expectations. However, if done right, the wine can be a wonderful reward for the time spent waiting.
Choose your bottle
The most important thing is to choose the right wines for storage. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that older is better; sometimes, a younger wine can be just as delicious. Young, exuberant wines won’t take well to being stored; instead, opt for a more full-bodied, mellow flavour that will develop over time. This means varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Riesling and Chardonnay are ideal.
When purchasing, opt for multiples of the same varietal. Some connoisseurs buy three bottles at once; more purchase six. Buying many means you’ll be able to track the development of the wine over time, opening one bottle at different intervals, while still having more in storage.
Wine prefers a more humid environment. This is especially important for wine under cork as dry air can cause the cork to dry out, and the wine to oxidise. Purchase a hygrometer to test the humidity in your cellar. The levels should hover between 75 and 90% for best results; tend towards the lower number for best results. (Above 90% means you’ll run the risk of developing mould on your corks.)
It’s important to keep the temperature consistent; fluctuations can disturb the maturation process and ruin the end result. Anywhere between 12 and 15 degrees is ideal. Any warmer and your wine will mature far too fast.
If you do not have the space in your own home, consider off-site storage. For a small fee, you can outsource the care and storage of your wine to a more seasoned custodian, who will ensure you get the perfect bottle at the end.
If your home is a little on the larger side, however, consider purchasing a small wine fridge or walk-in cool room. Although a little more work than the set-and-forget off-site options, an in-house wine cellar gives you the freedom to calibrate your wine to your exact tastes.
When storing corked wines, ensure the bottles are lain on their side. If the bottles stand upright, the cork runs the risk of drying out. Screwcap bottles can be stored upright or on their side.
It’s vital that you keep a record of your wines. Use a notebook or spreadsheet to record the price, dates, awards and scores. If you have tasted the same wine, including tasting notes so you can compare the aged wine to the original.