We all know that many wines benefit from a bit of ageing. The ideal storage conditions are a little less clear though. If you have a vacant air raid shelter in the garden then no need to worry, if not, here’s a quick rundown of what you should aim for if you plan to keep a wine for more than a few weeks:
1). Keep the bottle on its side – this will stop the cork from drying out. A dried cork is much more likely to let air in – bad news.
2). Keep the humidity up – again so that the cork doesn’t dry out. Careful though, very high humidity will damage the label and could damage the cork as well.
3). Keep the temperature at around 10 – 15 degrees. Too much hotter than this (25 degrees +) and you will cook the wine. Freeze it and the cork will pop out. Jancis Robinson reckons that 15 – 20 is fine though.
The general consensus is, the lower the temperature, the slower the maturation of the wine, but the better the final results.
4). Avoid too much temperature fluctuation - this will contract and expand the air bubble in the wine. A contracting air bubble will draw air into the wine (if it's on its side), an expanding air bubble will push wine out.
For this reason there is now a theory that the best way to store a bottle is actually at a slight angle. This means that the air bubble is partially in contact with the cork so that when it expands, air is pushed out of the wine, not liquid…
5). Keep the bottles away from direct sunlight – this also spoils the wine. This is why wine bottles are often made of dark glass.
Obviously these conditions are far from easy to achieve, but there’s the theory anyway. If you’ve got a spot under the stairs, bunging in some insulation and a bowl of water could be a good first step…