The History of Wine Collection Storage

In 1934 legal age Americans consumed less than 2 bottles of wine per year. Today the number has increased to over 32. With over 4.8 billion bottles of wine bought per year in America in 2017, storing this wine has become big business and, many wine enthusiasts know that moderate to severe temperature changes will drastically affect the quality and shelf life of the wine.

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More than 3 million homes in America now have some type of storage for wine. From a basic, one temperature, 12 bottle cooler to multi-million dollar walk in cellars, America has become obsessed with, not just protecting their wine but, in many cases, making a statement to others of just how grand their collection is. And, it’s not just homeowners, many fine restaurants are now built around a massive central walk in wine cellar that their customers can peer into and ponder if they will splurge on a bottle of Opus One or maybe a Rothschild.

But, just how important is it to “store” your wine properly? Without getting into the chemical analysis and biology of enzymes and organisms, it is easy to assume that extreme temperatures variations are not good for anything. Consider what happens to a bowl of chili if it is left on the counter for two days…and then what happens when we just keep it in the fridge for the same amount of time. As we know, even the fridge does not keep the chili from going bad, eventually.

The same is true with wine. If it’s left out and room temperature (72-74), many wines can be “OK’ for maybe a few years. Put the temperature up to 80 and the wine’s shelf life drops dramatically. Just like food however, just because it’s in a wine storage cooler, doesn’t mean it will last for 20 years. In fact, most average wines truly only have a life expectancy of less than 10 years, even in proper wine storage. I know that it might be possible to eat something that has been canned for several years but it would not be advisable. The same is true of wine. Also, just as some foods last longer than others, there are wines which are specifically engineered to last longer. These tend to be European wines which actually do not fully “mature” for years. Wines like a fine Rothschild can be 30 years or older and still be good.

A friend of mine, Claude Robbins, who owns The International Wine Guild, one of the nations’ largest wine schools, told me once that wine collectors often will count on a number of bottles in a case to be “bad” because of the age and region it was made in. He says that, “Even the subtlest changes in vibration, temperature and humidity can affect a prized case of wine and, that not all bottles in the case will react to these changes in the same manner.

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