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Wine Bottle Storage And Temperature

By Ed Kraus

Here is some basic information about temperature and how you should be concerned about it when chosing an area to store your wine.


Cooler Is Better

When storing your precious homemade wine for the long-term--after it has been bottled--it is usually understood that cooler is better. Most wine experts agree that the ultimate storage temperature for most bottled wines is 55 degrees F.

Cooler temperatures slow down the effects of oxidation. The same is true with reduced light exposure. Both help to reduce the symptoms caused by having too much oxygen in a wine.

But, don't get too hung up on temperature. The improvement is only marginal for each degree you go down in temperature. For instance, a 65 degree basement is much, much better than an 75 degree dinning room. This 10 degree improvement is a major benefit. But a 55 degree storage area is only marginally better than a room that is 65 degrees.

While there is some benefit by going on down to 55 degrees F. from 65 degrees, it is only minor as compared to getting the wine away from a 75 degree F. room.


Minimize Temperature Fluctuations

Your focus can be better served by finding a reasonably cool place to store your wine that has a stable temperature. For example, if I had a choice of storing my wine in a room that was a constant 65 degrees or a room that had temperatures that fluctuated between 45 and 65 all the time, without question I would choose the stable 65 degree room.

Temperature change is hard on a bottle of wine. It wears the wine down. Eventually, this constant rise and fall in temperature will give the wine a flabby flavor, weak aroma and a character that lacks depth or complexity. Please realize that this does not happen overnight, but with each rise and fall in temperature the wine will lose just a little bit more of its quality each time.


How Temperature Changes Affect A Wine

The reason for this deterioration in quality is because of expansion and contraction. Changes in temperature causes things to expand and contract. But not all things expand and contract the same amount.

In the case of a bottle of wine, both the glass bottle and the wine itself expand and contract along with temperature changes. But they expand to different degrees. The wine in the bottle expands and contracts much more so than the glass bottle in which it is being contained.

So as the temperature of the bottle of wine rises, the wine inside expands more so than the glass. This causes pressure within the bottle. In turn, this pressure causes a small amount of the wine's aroma or bouquet to slowly escape through the cork.

In more rapid temperature changes there may also be some noticable seepage of the wine itself through the cork. But this is only half of the story.

When this bottle is cooled back down again, the wine contracts more than the glass causing a vacuum within the bottle. As a result air is slowly sucked through the cork into the bottle.

So what you have is a situation where a wine's good aroma is being exchanged for bad, damaging air with each up and down cycle of temperature. One could say that the bottle is actually breathing with each cycle. It exhales its bouquet; and inhales oxidative air--not a good trade.

When this temperature change cycle happens two or three times through the life of a bottle of wine, not much effect in quality is noticed. But when this happens on a continual bases, then there is usually a detectable change for the worse.


Check Your Temperatures

If you are not sure where you stand with your wine storage area, it might be in your best interest to monitor the different temperatures that occur over a given period of time.

You might surprise yourself. Quite often areas thought to have stable temperatures such as fruit cellars or closed off portions of basements, in fact, can have daily temperature fluctuations as high as 5 to 10 degrees.


Related Article:
"Controlling Oxidation In Your Homemade Wines"

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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.