It is common knowledge that the quality of a good wine improves with time. Most Italian wines only require being stored for a few years to attain their best taste. But a few varietals—namely Barolo and Brunello—may take many years to mature. These top wines benefit greatly from a proper wine cellar to mature to the required standards. There are some general guidelines to consider when storing Italian wine.
1. Keep It Cool
Wines should be stored at a temperature range of between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 55 degrees Fahrenheit is the most recommended temperature for wine storage. Temperatures above 65° F make the wine age faster than desired causing them to become “cooked”; wine stored at such temperatures taste as if they have been stewed, baked, or burnt. The color also changes e.g. from red to brown.
2. Avoid low temperatures and refrigeration
Avoid storing wine in household refrigerators because most of them keep things at a temperature of below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, which could cause the wine to freeze and push the cork out. Household refrigerators also keep out moisture. Lack of moisture makes the cork to dry out and lets air into the bottles. The air interferes with fermentation and ruins the wine.
3. Maintain a constant temperature
Although temperatures of between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit are recommended for wine storage, it is important to avoid sudden extreme temperature changes. The temperature should be kept constant because irregular expansion and contraction caused by changes in temperature can push the cork out or lead to seepage.
4. Keep it away from lights
Light can cause quick aging and lower the quality of wine. It can also cause labels on wine bottles to fade. Although wine bottles are usually colored to prevent light penetration, wine should be stored away from sunlight and fluorescent bulbs light. These two light sources emit ultraviolet rays that can penetrate colored wine bottles and ruin the wine.
5. Check Humidity Levels
Dry air causes corks on wine bottles to dry out, which makes them allow air into the bottle. The air interferes with fermentation and spoils the wine. Therefore, wine should be stored in an environment with between 50 and 80 percent humidity. However, wine storage with 70 percent humidity levels is recommended. Humidity levels can be adjusted by placing a bowl of water in the storage area. It is important to measure the humidity levels inside the wine storage area to prevent dampness, which can damage the labels and affect the quality of the wine, especially if the bottles are not properly sealed.
6. Store Wine Bottles Sideways
Placing the bottles on their sides keeps the wine in contact with the cork. This prevents the cork from drying out. However, if the bottles have screw caps and glass, or plastic corks, placing the bottles on their sides only help to utilize a small space to store many bottles.
7. Avoid Shaking the Bottles
Vibrations cause poor settlement of wine components and disrupt the fermentation process. However, for this to happen, the vibrations have to be significant such as physically shaking the bottle or vibrations from a train or rock concert. The latter events are unlikely to occur in a home. Therefore, avoid shaking the wine bottles.
Types of Italian Wine Storage Equipment
1. Wine Refrigerator
A wine refrigerator is suitable for both short and long-term wine storage. Some have dual-zone temperature control settings, interior LED lighting, safety lock, tempered and tinted glass, double pane, a reversible door, and a carbon filter. They can be built-in or stand-alone. A built-in refrigerator is fixed somewhere on a wall or in a cabinet while a stand-alone can be moved around.
2. Wine Rack
A wine rack is basically a shelf that has been customized for wine storage. It is suitable for storing wine that is taken regularly and does not require strict storage conditions. They are not suitable for storing wine that needs to be stored for several years to mature. However, they are cheap options for wine lovers who cannot afford a refrigerator or a cellar.
3. Wine Cellar
A wine cellar is used to store wine for a long period so that it can mature. The cellar is designed and fitted with all the specific temperature and humidity requirements for wine storage. It can be placed in a variety of places; indoors, outdoors, underground, above the ground, as well as built-in on to a wall. It can also be a stand-alone that can be moved around when necessary. Although installing a wine cellar is an expensive venture (unless you already have one in your medieval castle), it is one of the best ways to preserve wine, especially for a prolonged period.
Italians believe in delayed gratification, so they don’t mind waiting for a wine to reach its potential. Indeed there’s something satisfying about helping to nurture a fine wine to its full expression. So take a lesson from our Italian friends and aspetta! (Wait!)