Where is the Best Place to Store Unopened Wine?
Wine Questions Answered
By Paul Howard
Q: Most of us don’t have a cellar for storing our wine in optimal conditions – where’s the best place to store unopened wine? Will a fridge do for the white and a drinks cabinet for the red?
Erin V, via email
A: Some lucky people have a cool damp cellar ideal for wine storage, or are willing to spend a considerable amount on a dedicated wine cabinet – but most of us are not in that position. In the short term, a fridge for whites and a drinks cabinet for reds are fine. However, this isn’t optimal – wine will deteriorate in the fridge over time and space is often limited – a fridge is best used to chill white wine before serving.
Similarly, a drinks cabinet for reds risks the bottles suffering temperature variation, especially if kept in a kitchen or near radiators. Light can adversely affect the taste and dry air from central heating can cause corks to fail. For longer term storage of whites and reds, investigate the cupboard under the stairs, a little used spare room or even an old coal-hole. These can, with a little ingenuity, offer a more constant temperature and darkness plus an absence of vibration. Low humidity can be dealt with easily by leaving a bowl of water, or wrap the bottles in cling film if the space is prone to damp.
Q: I’ve read about wines tasting, among other flavours, of coconut, banana, chocolate, wood and grass! Is there something particularly special about grapes that make them so good at mimicry?
Mark Bridge, Farsley
A: In short, Mark, there is! It’s the grape skins that contain a wealth of different complex compounds that can lead to so many different taste combinations, and each grape variety has its own signature, further complicated by where the grapes are grown and when they are harvested. But it doesn’t stop there – during fermentation, more new compounds are made, varying with how this is controlled.
Afterwards, new aromas, flavours and textures can be imparted depending on the method of maturation and exposure to air. Finally, for wines designed to age, the complex molecules in the wine will continue to react with one another very slowly in the bottle. It’s a huge subject, but many fruit and flower flavours and aromas come from the grapes, while clues to winemaking can be picked up from tastes of geranium, banana and butter. Wood maturation might add coconut, chocolate and vanilla from new oak barrels. Finally, bottle development might bring secondary leathery, savoury or gamey characters. It’s all part of what makes wine tasting so fascinating!