There are endless articles on the web about how to store wine. The same way food changes when you heat it on a cooker, wine also changes as it gets warmer.
First, tannins become more noticeable and the flavor has a tang on the palate and then instead of a smooth feel, the wine will taste rough and any fruit flavors are hidden by an acid taste. In dry climates, corks shrink as they lose moisture or may be pushed out if they are in a tropical climate. Other closures may also be pushed out as wine expands during temperature spikes. Older wines and those with natural corks are more delicate so are more likely to be spoilt than a young wine sealed with a synthetic closure. If a wine bottle is leaking or tastes astringent then the wine has probably been cooked.
Ideally, all wines would be continuously stored at cellar temperature between 55 and 65 degrees. This temperature feels relatively cool, but the key is ensuring the heat and humidity stay consistent. The more dramatic the fluctuations the more likely the wine will be ruined. At roughly 70 degrees temperature the damage starts. In tropical climates this means air conditioned homes still need a wine fridge, unless you are prepared to have your air conditioning on the whole time. An occasional spike won’t destroy all your wine, but a week with no air conditioning whilst you are on holiday may just tip your wine over the edge.
If you’re living in the tropics even if you’ve invested in a sophisticated wine fridge your wine may still be compromised. Inside a normal delivery truck wine can easily be over heated. It doesn’t help when wine is packed tightly retaining the heat in the bottles. The age, style and closure type of a wine will all contribute to how easily a wine is damaged and so will where the wine is in the pile of bottles. Heat doesn’t destroy bottles evenly. All of this means it is impossible to know when a bottle has been spoilt.
What to do?
The best way to store wine at home is in a wine cellar or specialist fridge where temperature and humidity are controlled. If you’re not one of the lucky few who has a wine cellar or even a wine fridge the next best thing is to simply put all your wine (reds and whites) into your normal, domestic fridge. In the short term the humidity in a regular fridge won’t be detrimental to your wine. If you live in the tropics and you know you’ll be away and the air conditioning will be off then putting your favorite wine in the fridge is a must. If you can, keep your wine away from light, the ultraviolet and the heat generated from light causes the wine to age prematurely.
When shopping for wine avoid the stores that seem hot or humid or seem to leave boxes of wine out in the heat. If a cork looks sticky or pushed up or the bottle looks like it has been leaking then always ask for a different bottle. Many retailers offer overnight and temperature-controlled shipping options.
If you’ve bought wine avoid leaving wine in a hot car. Try and make your wine purchase the last thing you do before you drive home and keep it in your air conditioned part of the car rather than the boot.
Hotels & Restaurants
Every hotel and restaurant wants to be able to provide their customer with wine to complement their menu choices. There are many challenges to be overcome before the waiter is bringing out the wine…
The temperature of the wine cellar should be set according to the wines in storage. If in doubt keep the temperature between 5 to 18 degrees centigrade. If you’re having to put a mixture of wines into one fridge then be mindful of letting the wines rest outside of the fridge before serving. This way the wine when presented to a customer will have the aroma, flavor and body they are expecting.
So, you may have the temperature and humidity in the correct range, but where are your fridges(s) located? Ideally they need to be in a place where they are least likely to be knocked. Every single shake and bump unsettles the wine, especially the reds.
It’s easy to understand why many restaurants and cafes in tropical climates stick to soft drinks and beer, however as the palate for fine dining has matured so has the desire for wines to complement the food.
At The 9th Floor Phuket, our very own Bart Duykers has extensive wine experience and a level 2 qualification in WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). We take our wine seriously through the whole process from wine selection to wine storage and finally serving the wine at your table.