Wine storage on our hot and humid island just north of the equator can be quite a challenge. With our average temperatures hovering around the 25-30°C mark, keeping delicate wines cool enough (but not too cold) presents a problem that is uniquely Singaporean.
Most experts recommend that wine be kept at a constant temperature. Too hot, and the wine could spoil or “cook”, thus developing off flavours. Too cold means the environment will be too dry, which is also terrible for the corks.
The good news is that most wines are made to be “ready to drink”. Now, this doesn’t imply that they are of low quality, far from it. There are many excellent wines that are designed to be “ready to drink” – think Beaujolais Nouveau or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Think about it this way – a curry tastes better as it ages and the flavours develop, but no one would think that keeping sashimi in the fridge for a few days would improve its quality.
High quality ready to drink wines should only be stored for a few months at most, and can be a little more forgiving of storage conditions. Still, it’s best to follow these pointers:
- Store away from direct sunlight
- Store bottle horizontal, so the cork stays moist
- Between 4°C and 18°C in temperature
- Relative humidity should be greater than 50%
Now, if you’re drinking an economical screw-top bottle of Yellow Tail or Jacob’s Creek, your fridge is very adequate for the task at hand. If you’ve invested in a case of particularly delicate Old World wines, you might want to consider protecting your investment with another solid buy – a wine fridge. You can get a nice one for a few hundred dollars, and it can store up to 32 bottles at optimum conditions, ensuring that your collection stays delicious till the last drop.
Advice for collectors
If you take your wine seriously, then you might have more specific storage needs. If you have a larger and/or valuable collection, chances are the wines you have are meant to be aged and may not reach their full potential until some time has passed.
These wines cannot tolerate any swing in temperature at all. While the ideal temperature can range between 11°C and 14°C, once you choose a temperature, it is vitally important it doesn’t fluctuate.
It’s also important to keep the humidity high (to prevent the cork from drying out), and away from light, vibrations and odours.
Here is why: A good wine is a complex mix of volatile chemical compounds, including amino acids, phenols, carbohydrates and more. As wine ages, these compounds react with the tiny amount of oxygen present from when the wine was bottled, plus the even tinier amounts that enter through the cork during storage.
Temperature, humidity, vibrations and light all tend to change the speed and nature of these chemical reactions, thus affecting how the wine ages. Changing conditions also affect the air movement in the bottle – as the environment warms up, the air in the bottle expands and leaks out. As the environment cools, the air contracts and draws outside air into the bottle through the microscopic holes in the cork. Adding oxygen is the worst thing you can do to your stored wine, so it is vitally important to keep the temperature stable.
Here’s how to see if your current storage solution is up to par. Leave a sensitive max-min thermometer in your wine fridge for a few months, and see what happens. Choose one with a liquid probe as you want to measure the temperature of the actual wine, and not the air around the bottle, as glass is a good insulator.
If your wine fridge isn’t up to par, considering upgrading it. Think about its location – it might help to move the wine cabinet somewhere dark and undisturbed (a basement, perhaps).
Alternately, you might want to consider storing your wine where it can be taken care of by the experts. While it does cost more over time than simply buying a wine fridge, commercial systems are more reliable, of higher quality and are often insured, secured and monitored. Check out Wine Bond, 12 Degrees or Extra Space for more information.