Over the last thirty years New Zealand wines have come to be regarded as some of the best in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that our consumption of wine, and our level of knowledge about it, has risen dramatically over the last few decades, to the point where it is unusual now to meet someone who doesn’t at least know one or two wines that they particularly like.
Of course, some people go a lot further than just grabbing a bottle of Sav from the supermarket on the way to a barbecue. In many new Zealand households wine has been promoted from a dinnertime drink to a pastime in its own right, requiring exacting research, diligent selection, lengthy discussion with like-minded enthusiasts, and, of course, careful storage.
If you are one of the growing number of wine aficionados who are slowly but steadily building a wine collection you’ll need to know how to look after those precious bottles.
Caring for Your Wine
Certain conditions are necessary to preserve the health of wine if it is stored for any length of time.
Wine should be stored at a cool temperature, ideally between 12˚C – 14˚C. Temperatures a few degrees warmer will not harm the wine, however they will cause it to age faster. Once you get to 23.5˚C, though, your wine will start to degrade as it is at this temperature that wine begins to oxidise.
Consistency of temperature is also important. Fluctuations of more than 3˚C during the day can cause the wine to over-breathe. As the wine heats it is forced through the cork, as it cools it sucks air back in. Over-breathing will result in premature aging of the wine. Fortunately, New Zealand wine with its predominance of screw-tops is not so prone to this problem.
Ultraviolet rays can damage the chemical structure of wine and in extreme cases cause it to become “light-struck” – a condition where the wine exhibits an unpleasant odour.
Sunlight and fluorescent bulbs are particularly detrimental, but even incandescent light should be avoided if possible. Simply put, store your wine in the dark.
Humidity of around 70% works well for wine storage. A storage area that is too dry will cause corks to shrink, exposing the wine to air – hurray for those screw-tops again!
Levels of humidity that are too high will cause mould growth which can damage wine bottle labels. Label damage can make it impossible to identify your wines and will also significantly damage their resale value.
If excess humidity is a problem you can protect your labels by wrapping wine bottles in a single sheet of cling film.
Peace and Quiet
Like a sleeping person, your wine likes to lie undisturbed. Protect it from shocks and vibrations and once you’ve laid it down, leave it alone – it’s tempting to show your prize vintages off to friends, but the agitation the wine will suffer in the process is less than desirable for optimal storage.
If you do have wine that is cork sealed, store your bottles at an angle that ensures the cork is fully in contact with the wine. This will prevent the cork from drying and shrinking and protect the wine from exposure to air.
Four Simple Rules
Keep your wine in the dark, at a constant cool temperature with moderate humidity and let it lie still.
By following these four rules you’ll be storing your New Zealand wine in the best possible conditions and those valuable vintages will age safely and gracefully.
Learn more about storing wine with this video.