Monday, February 22, 2010

The "Ideal" Wine Storage Temperature?

The question of “proper” wine storage has been a discussion in the wine industry and elsewhere for many moons, and everyone has their different opinions on the temperature at which they think wine is best stored for aging. A majority of the articles you’ll read from different critics and resources will say that 55 degrees is the ideal temperature for storing wines over the long term. What people seem to think is most important however is the simple fact that the temperature has to be kept steady, with next to no fluctuation. I don’t necessarily disagree with this in the least, and do find that steady temperatures will benefit a good wine. But what is a good wine anyway? “Daily drinkers” however, as we like to call them may not be as critical, as they are going to be opened over the short term, and maybe are not as temperature dependant since they will be opened in the short term. When I say short term, I am thinking in the next 12-24 months. If it were up to me, I would keep all of our wines stored at a steady 55 degrees, however, we don’t have a single cellar large enough to accommodate all of our wines. . That being said, we do have many different climate controlled cellars, as well as a mini fridge that I store our white “daily drinkers” in. We even keep a few bottles in the regular refrigerator for easy access. Thus far, I have never had an issue with any of the bottles we have stored in any of our climate controlled cellars, or even on the other racks that we have scattered around the house. But that is not to say that the wines might not have been better if stored under ideal conditions. The reason for this post is because I am going to do a study on wine storage over the course of 18 months. The variables for this study will be as follows: 4 bottles will participate in this experiment. All 4 bottles will be the same wine, from the same vintage, from the same producer. I have not picked the wine yet, however, it will be a wine that we are familiar with. The storage locations will be the following: Bottle “A”: This will be stored in the cellar at a constant 55 degrees. Bottle “B”: This will be stored on a rack in the dark nook in our kitchen. Bottle “C”: This will be stored on a rack in the mud room where there is a window that is both opened and closed throughout the year. Bottle “D”: This will be stored in the cabinet above the exhaust hood above our stove. One of the most important variables obviously will be the wine that I choose. I want to do this with a wine that we are very familiar with, and I have yet to make a decision on what this wine will be. I would like to choose something like a cabernet sauvignon, although, I am sure this would work with any varietal. Pinot noir is my second option. The hardest part for me in choosing a wine will be the simple fact that I want to make sure it is a wine that we have had multiple times, yet also something that I will be able to hold off from opening. That being said, we have to find a wine that we can keep out hands off of. The next important variable will be the amount of time we let the wines rest. For this reason, I have chosen 18 months, and there really is no rhyme or reason as to why I have picked this time frame. I do however think that 18 months will be long enough to make a difference in the aging process, as I do not feel as little as 12 months will have as large of an effect. Will an extra 6 months really make a difference? I don’t think so as far as bottles A, B, and C go, but I do think that an additional 6 months could really hurt bottle D, but only time will tell. Next, temperature is going to be a factor. Obviously, the bottle in the cellar “should” show the best, and age the slowest, however, maybe the advanced aging process will make one of the other bottles benefit more, and show better. After all, we’re not talking first growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy here. This will be a tough variable to measure, and this will be affected by the bottle of wine that I choose for this experiment. Obviously, the bottle over the stove “should” age the fastest, as there are times when using the stove that this area is going to get hot. There is also the chance that this bottle could end up “cooked,” and be no good at all. That is a chance that I am willing to take for this experiment. There is the possibility that the two other bottles could prove to be the best bottles, as the advanced aging may be of benefit to them. Again, only time will tell. With that being said, I am now on the hunt to pick a wine that I think will prove to work out nicely for this experiment. My early thoughts are to use a cabernet sauvignon from Stefania, however, I hate the thought of using their wines for this experiment, knowing that one of the bottles just might get cooked. Their wines are so tasty and irreplaceable, that I would hate to do that. These are however wines that we are very familiar with. My second thought is to use a cabernet sauvignon like a Louis M. Martini Reserve Alexander Valley, but this is a wine that I have only had a few times, but I do like it’s price point. A wine like a 2006 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is another good option, however, I am not seeing much of this at retail anymore. Yet another option is something like a 2005 Chateau Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild is another option, and I know where I can find these locally for under $30 a bottle. One final thought is the Joseph Phelps Innisfree cabernet sauvignon, as it is easily available, but to me, it is not quite of the same caliber as the other wines mentioned. I’d really like to use a quality wine for this experiment, so feel free to send me your suggestions. Regardless, you won’t see me using a cabernet from Scarecrow, Maybach, Rivers-Marie, or Herb Lamb! It is also going to be tough as no matter what wine I chose, it is going to be very early in its drinking window, and still be very young! I will keep a running database on a weekly basis where I will use a laser temperature gauge to measure the temperature of the bottles throughout the year and a half. I think that this will be good data to record, and who knows, it may prove to be reliable data worthy of something in the future. Or maybe it will just be useless information that I will never put to use. Either way, better safe than sorry, and what is an extra 30 seconds to record some data that just might help prove a theory. There will definitely be more to come on this experiment, so feel free to leave your comments here as I am curious to hear what your thoughts are. In the meantime, stay tuned to see which wines I select for the experiment, and for a date for the experiment to start. This just might be a worthwhile experience.


Anonymous said...

Sounds fun, but your experiment is fatally flawed, due to bottle variance, which is outside your control.


NJFoodies said...

Anonymous: you are indeed correct, and the only way to do this experienced properly would really to be there at the bottling line when the wine comes off, tasting each one, giving them your blessing, corking, foiling, and transporting home. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic, and with any wine, you are going to have bottle variation. Even if the bottles came from the same barrels in the same lots from the same blend bottled one behind another off the line, there is always the chance of bottle variation. I think however for this little experiment, whatever bottles we chose to pick will be just fine. It definitely won’t be some mass produced 3 million case Yellow Tail or Gallo, and will be something we’ve had on multiple occasions that we know. It will also be something that is readily accessible, so we can drink these as the experiment progresses for comparison sake.

If you have an idea as to how to make this experiment less flawed, I would be interested to hear it. Cheers! -F. Scott