The Matter of Aging Wine

The Matter of Aging Wine
by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr February 1985

For those of you who chose to practice the ageing of wine… here is a checklist of the important factors, and a review of the elements concerned.

Look at the location where you are storing your wines. Measure it against the criteria described.

TEMPERATURE

The ideal temperature for ageing wine is considered to be 55°F. This ideal temperature is the reference point for ageing prognostications. Above that, the wine ages faster, and below it, it ages slower. Higher ageing temperatures also reduces the quality of the final product.

Equally important, if not more important, is the consistency of temperature. There should not be a five degree variation in the tempe­rature of stored ageing wine. Day to night, or month to month variation, accelerates the ageing. It is better to have a consistent higher temperature than a lower varying one.

LIGHT

Wine is influenced by direct light, particularly sunlight. It is conducive as energy for minute chemical reactions in the wine. Cellars with direct light windows should be kept shuttered, and light bulbs should not remain lit in cabinets or cellars.

VIBRATION

Your cellar or wine cabinet should be away from vibrating equipment like refrigerators, freezers, air-conditioners, furnaces, elevator shafts, etc. (Wherever a motor may be running.) The minute vibrations stir the wine, even though ever so slightly. This accelerates the chemical reactions that are going on in the wine as part of its ageing process.

I have mixed feelings about wine ageing cabinetry which are self contained with their own cooling equipment. A faulty motor will vibrate and shake the wine. The ideal is a remote cooling system, mounted on a different platform than the cabinetry or cellar.

HUMIDITY

The cabinet, room, or cellar should not be damp. Mold tends to develop and have a miserable odor to it. The labels get moldy and peel off. Generally this will not effect the wine content of well corked bottles, but it plays havoc with the rest of what is in the space. This is sometimes a problem with new construction of a planned underground cellar. Sealing is imperative.

POSITION OF BOTTLE

All corked bottles should be stored on their side, or at such an angle that part or all of the wine in the neck is in contact with the cork. This prevents the cork from drying out. If this occurs, air will find its way into the neck and start its detrimental oxidation. Some think turning the bottles every so often is a necessary practice. I think this is a fallacy. It is better for ageing wine to be still and not disturbed, particularly if a sediment is developing.

CHEMICALS

Avoid storing anything else in the area where you store wine. It is so easy to shove boxes of things into the empty space in the cellar or cabinet. Wine can absorb odors and tastes from these sources. Also avoid using strong sanitizing solutions in your cellar. The wine could absorb these odors.

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