How To Store Wine In Various Containers
1. Standard Method:
After your wine bottles have
been corked - leave them upright for 2-3 days for the cork to expand
fully and seal properly. Then lay them on their side in a dark cool place.
knowledge has it, that the cork will allow very tiny amounts of air
through to oxygenate the wine over time. This would help it develop it's
flavor components more fully.
Does micro-oxygenation through corks really exist?
2. Optional (optimum?) Method:
This method requires you to get the angle of the laid-down bottle just right. So the bottle would not be perfectly horizontal.
Bottles using this method should be stored on their side with half the cork in contact with the wine, and the other half or so in contact with the air bubble. The cork will stay damp because the wine touches it and it acts as a sponge, keeping the whole cork damp so it still seals well.
But the air bubble is free to push out or pull in if there is a fluctuation in temperature, through that part of the cork that isn't touching the wine directly.
Using method 1 during periods of temperature fluctuation and without the air bubble right at the cork, a tiny amount of wine/alcohol gets pushed out to evaporate. And when the temperature returns to normal - extra air gets drawn back in. So too much oxidation can occur.
This happens over time in very small amounts. But by storing your bottles using method 2 no wine creeps out, so this will eliminate any worry of overly oxidizing your wine over the long haul.
Does it work? Is it worth the effort for personal home wine storage? Time will tell.
Maybe people are giving corks too much credit. More on that below.
This would also upset the entire wine rack supplier chain, whose racks are designed to lay bottles down horizontally.
The Mighty Natural Cork
Does micro-oxygenation through natural or agglomerated corks really exist?
been drilled into our heads that it does - from highfalutin sommeliers
and wine aficionados, to authors of wine books and beyond. For me, I'd
like to believe it, but the science of it falls a bit short.
Cork is cut from the cork oak tree.
Harvested cork oak bark.
And we know that wood "breathes", yes. But by compressing the cork into a smaller space (bottle neck), wouldn't that pretty much eliminate it's ability to pass air or wine during the home wine storage phase? Isn't that why we compress it?
Cork also swells up when it gets damp to help seal the bottle further. For most bottles of wine with natural corks, there are no leaks. So why is it that oxygen should pass through?
And if oxygen can pass through - shouldn't Co2 be able to pass through when aging sparkling wines? What about the 170 year-old shipwrecked bottles of Champagne that were preserved beautifully at the bottom of the Baltic Sea?
Granted, some champagnes and sparkling wines are stored upright nowadays, and others don't have cork closures. But many do. And they're stored for years on their side the same as still wines.
And when you pull the cork, the sparkling wine is still loaded with Co2 bubbles.
It seems that we're back to the old anthill again --
Although I question the micro-oxygenation through natural corks, I completely trust them as my number one closure. Cork bark is harvested by hand using special axes. The trees are unharmed and can be stripped again every 9 years. It's a very highly-regulated and sustainable industry. And yes, I love pulling corks from my bottles too!
Finding space for barrels in your home wine storage area can sometimes be a challenge. You can use smaller oak barrels here to your advantage. They don't take up much space and due to the higher surface of wood to volume of wine ratio, your wine is "oaky" sooner.
When storing barrels in the cellar, you need to monitor the level of ullage (air space).
Your wine is absorbed by the wood and some of it evaporates as well which produces ullage.
same as corks above, this evaporation of wine and absorption of minute
amounts of air is called micro-oxygenation. In teeny-tiny amounts at this
point in the life of your wine - air is good for it and helps it to
Barrel aged wine can be toasty, dark and complex.
Unlike corks, I know that oak barrels "breathe". Wood is porous after all and we're not compressing it like a cork. In fact, as long as the cells are running lengthwise... you can suck wine up through a piece of oak like a straw!
- softens tannins
- stabilizes color
- enhances color
- increases bouquet
- and will help to develop more complex flavors and aromas
Depending on the size of the barrel and other factors, you should top up the wine with a similar vintage at least once a month. Otherwise you run the risk of oxidation spoilage. And with this much wine at stake you certainly don't want that!
Be aware that your wine is picking up oak characteristics as it ages in the barrel. And that there will be a point where it gets too "oaky". Taste the wine regularly to find the "sweet spot" that you like.
Carboys and Stainless-steel Tanks
Always top your carboys and vessels right up into the neck when storing your wine. With stainless tanks, use a lid with a gasket or a variable-volume "floating" lid.
I've always felt that wine in bulk storage ages better than wine in
bottles. I have no definitive proof to give you though... it's just that
the wine has complete access to all of the components and compounds
that the entire batch has to offer. Instead of only what's inside the bottle.
|Two 1-gallon jugs with delicious wine inside.
|Eight gallons of wine in storage.
So I let my batches of wine age in these vessels as long as I can - usually until I need the carboy or tank for the next batch. Since you'll be using a solid bung with the stabilized wine, it's important to maintain a constant temperature in the storage area so it doesn't get pushed out (wine expands as it warms up).
You can still use an airlock instead of a solid bung, but make sure to replace the water/sulfite solution once a month.
Because carboys and stainless tanks don't "breathe" like a barrel does,
your wine will develop without the benefit of micro-oxygenation.
There's a lot about aging that still isn't fully understood. And science can't measure or anticipate everything. But that's the beauty of home wine storage...
You're not a winery, and don't have thousands of dollars tied up in grapes etc that you need to recoup to make your business successful. So you can do your own wine storage tests and wait as long as you need to, see how it works out.