A guide to Wine Storage

Buying wine, for investment or consumption, is a process that lends itself to great care – especially when considering the wine storage.

What is often then overlooked, or perhaps lopped on as an afterthought, is where that carefully considered investment is going to be stored.  Under the stairs?  In the boiler cupboard?  Perhaps the garage feels a safer bet?

So much of wines’ value, whether the end game is drinking or selling, is wound up in its provenance and the condition it was stored in. Storing wine in an official government bonded warehouse can protect exactly that. Above all, wine needs consistency. As a living organism, it is of course affected by surrounding conditions – heat, light, humidity, movement and ventilation are all massively important. As a perishable asset, that can become devalued if stored incorrectly, it’s worth getting the basics right.

TEMPERATURE – The singularly most crucial of all factors of wine storage. The optimum temperatures to store wine is in-between 10 – 15 degrees, but deviating slightly from this is not the end of the world, as long as it isn’t subject to huge fluctuations. Most professional wine storage facilities keep the cases at a cool 12 degrees and won’t vary from it by more than half a degree either side.

As a liquid, wine contracts and expands with its surrounding temperatures. Temperatures over 30 degrees will start to significantly change the structure of the wine, with the colour, clarity and flavour compounds within it all becoming detrimentally affected. Anything below -4 degrees and you run the risk of the wine freezing, again changing the compounds of the wine, and also potentially forcing the cork out of its bottle. This can also happen if the temperatures are too high, which can lead to premature oxidisation.

LIGHT – is also an important influencer when it comes to wine storage. Not only does light bring provide heat, it is also magnified through glass, especially clear or lighter bottles. Sparkling wine is particularly susceptible and UV light is even more penetrative than its regular perpetrator, so your wine storage facility needs to be dark.  The most diligent of collectors would also suggest using incandescent or sodium vapour lights in a cellar/storage facility. Just in case.

HUMIDITY – Too little and the cork will dry out, lose its elasticity and let air in; too much and the actual liquid will remain intact, but the labels and cases can disintegrate.  Not only are they important for identification, but if you are planning to sell your wine, damaged labels and cases will seriously affect its value.

For the perfectionist, wine is best kept at 70% humidity, with an acceptable range being 50-80%. A standard fridge comes in at 20% which will dry out the cork, even if the wine is laid flat. A good reason not to leave your wine in the fridge for too long! If conditions feel a bit dry, a good way to humidify matters is a big bucket of water in proximity to the wines. Sounds basic but can have a remarkable conservatory-complex effect.

VENTILATION – It may sound obvious, but stow away your loot in a musty basement and you will know about it. Corks are not air-tight, so any lingering smell of anything, savoury or less so, will work its way in and tarnish the wine.  And no one wants ‘hint of mothballs’ on their tasting notes. Wine likes well-aired, controlled environments, with consistency being the key and a few well-recommended optimums for perfection’s sake.

MOVEMENT – The less of it, the better. Any kind of vibrations from noise, machinery, even transport, is damaging to wine.  The waves disturb the sediment, not to mention liquid itself and can seriously affect the wine’s ageing process and natural composition. Bottles need to be kept flat with the label facing up, so that the wine comes into contact with the cork, keeping it moist, any sediment will form in the bottom of the punt.  Minimal disturbance means minimal bits floating around the glass when it finally comes to drinking time.

SECURITY – Crime within the wine world does not limit itself to fraudulent bottles in Asia.  It is seen as an easily tradable commodity – ie. Easy to shift and tricky to trace. Closer to home (should your wine be there), you don’t want to come back after a week away to find someone has tucked into your prized case, only to have had a couple of glasses and thrown the rest down the sink because ‘it didn’t taste very nice’. Security works at all sorts of levels, most of all for your own peace of mind.

Having scrupulously covered what environmental influences need to be factored into your storage plan, it feels important to check-in with why all of the above are so important.  And it all boils down to PROVENANCE. Not only protecting the quality and ageing of the wine itself, but also the accreditation that surrounds its history. Which is where storing your wine in a bonded warehouse really comes into its own.

Whilst you might be lucky enough to have access to a perfectly conditioned cellar, the reality of buying wine for any kind of investment purpose, be it financial or personal, is the necessity to make sure its history is traceable.

BUYING WINE When buying wine, there are so many things to think about and it can often feel rather daunting. From deciding what, when, how much and who from, the bit after the buying is easily forgotten and yet arguably the most important part of your purchase. Where are you going to keep it? Professional storage facilities are by far the best options. As a fully-accredited, government bonded warehouse your wine cases remain duty and tax exempt until you decide to delivery it to your home. If you’re selling your cases to a wine merchant who has a bonded warehouse, or who are based abroad, the logistics are simplified and you still won’t have to pay the tax.

Depending on where you’ve bought your wine from, bonded warehouses like London City Bond or Octavian Vaults can help with the movement of your wine, and also with its certification and insurance. You are also guaranteed optimised and constant conditions for the safe-keeping of your liquid assets, until such time as you choose to move it on. You may also find the wine is already stored there (as the 2 most established and respected warehouses in the UK, many merchants hold their stock with them) which makes for an easy transfer via accounts and very little, or no movement of the actual stocks. It also means they will already have all the existing paperwork, authenticity reports and condition reports, on file.

With such an array of options, you’ll soon be able to view our resource on Bonded Warehouses, which outlines the best available warehouses in the UK and their contact details.

The Author

Helen Richards

Helen Richards

Hely's love of wine was born from a young age, spending summers exploring the vineyards of France. After studying Modern Languages at Oxford, she worked in publishing and branding before joining the JF Tobias team to help build our blog / written content. She loves wine, writing, yoga and adventure in equal measure and strives to balance all four, although not necessarily all at the same time!