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The Effects of Cellar Conditions on your Wine

Reprinted from Dry River Cellar Notes by Neil McCallum.

In our experience the ‘robustness’ of wines is likely to be in the order: Cabernet and blends> Syrah> Fume blanc and Sauvignon blanc> Riesling> Pinot gris and Chardonnay> Pinot noir and Gewürztraminer. Wines high in extract will tend to mature rather more slowly than the ‘average’.

If your cellar conditions are not similar to the ‘standard cellar’, you will no doubt learn how to interpret the recommendations to your own conditions. However, a more active approach to evaluating your cellar is to note temperatures for the range of the days, between weeks and between seasons, by leaving a thermometer in your cellar, It is not sufficient to observe that the cellar ‘always feels cool’ — such feelings are relative only to outside conditions. Significant fluctuations in daily or weekly temperatures tend to add to the speed of ageing commented on below, and may also increase the incidence of leakers and seepers. Vibration and direct light on the wine are damaging influences which should also be avoided.

If your storage has temperature maximums of no more than 10 – 15 degrees Celsius, then your storage conditions are good, and your wines will be at a similar stage of development to that indicated by your wine maker. Burgundians say that for proper cellaring Pinot Noir must be kept in this temperature range. (cf. the book Pinot noir, by A. Barr, p33)

If your storage has temperature maximums of no more than 15 – 18 degrees Celsius, then your wine could he maturing 20-25% faster than above. Nevertheless, for quality the conditions are adequate, unless you would like to pamper your wines or your cellar is large and/or valuable. Your wine makers recommendations will be very useful, but bear in mind that your wines will develop faster.

If your storage has temperature maximums of no more than 18 - 24 degrees Celsius, then your storage conditions are not ideal; differences in speed of development will be evident even with storage over 2-3 years. Plan for holding less robust wines no mote than 3 years.

If your storage has temperature maximums of more than 25 degrees Celsius, then your storage conditions are not very good, but do note that most good wines may still benefit for up to 2 or 3 years in this cellar. Less robust wines probably should not he held beyond 2 years. Cabernet and blends, Sauvignon Blanc, Fumi Blanc. Riesling could benefit from longer periods, depending on the actual conditions. Avoid cellaring Pinot Noir.

* Adapted with permission from James Wilson

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