3 Critical Facets of Wine Storage

Wine can be a lucrative addition to a restaurant’s drink offerings, but if you’re not a connoisseur you may feel intimidated by all the rules regarding storage and serving different varieties. While storing wine under the wrong conditions can have an adverse effect on the flavor, the drink is not as delicate as some would have you think. Following a few basic rules can help ensure your customers enjoy the full flavors of the wines you offer.

Hold Temperatures Steady

Wines should not be stored in a regular cooler, as those temperatures are far too cold and can make the flavors of the wine muted and difficult to discern. On the flip side, if the bottle is stored in an environment that’s too warm, it can permanently damage the flavors and age a wine far beyond what is optimal.

It’s also important to know that even worse than either of those two extremes is temperature fluctuations. If wine temperature fluctuates more than 1 to 3 degrees over an extended period of time, the expansion and contraction of the liquid inside can cause the wine to push the cork out a bit. Once the cork starts being pushed back, the wine can seep out, and although doesn’t always mean the wine is ruined, it can introduce contaminants that may ruin the flavor.

What is confusing to some about storing wine is that red and white wines are best served at different temperatures. White wines should be served at around 50 degrees, while red wines should be served at 60 degrees. While some restaurants may opt to invest in two commercial wine coolers, there are also models available that have two separate temperature zones to accommodate each type of wine.

In an interview with now-defunct food magazine Lucky Peach, wine expert Robert Bohr suggested keeping both types of wine stored at around 54 degrees. By the time a red wine is brought out to a table and poured, it will have warmed up to about 60 degrees. Alternatively, a white wine could be very quickly chilled in a wine cooler or bucket to reach that perfect 50 degrees before serving.

Monitor Humidity

Humidity is another big concern when wine is going to be stored for an extended period of time. The ideal humidity level for storing wine is 70 percent, but anything in the 50 to 80 percent range is safe. If the environment is too dry, the cork can dry out, letting air into the bottle and causing the wine to spoil; if the humidity is too high, the cork can mold.

Most wine coolers have high-humidity refrigeration, which helps maintain the proper level of moisture in the air. A hygrometer is a valuable tool for monitoring the humidity in a cooler, and usually isn’t an expensive accessory. If the cooler is too humid, a dehumidifier may be of use, and if it is too dry, you may try adding a pan of water to the cooler. It also helps to store wine bottles on their sides, as the shelves in wine coolers and commercial wine racks are made for, because keeping the wine in contact with the cork can help prevent it from drying out.

Mind the Details

Another factor to keep in mind when planning how to configure your restaurant’s wine storage is lighting. Lights, especially UV light, can age and damage the wine and fade the labels, which can give a customer a poor first impression. Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs both emit a small amount of UV light, so LED lights are the preferred lighting method for wine coolers.

Scents in the area where wine is being stored can also have a noticeable effect on the wine. Because corks are porous, the air in the surrounding area can seep into the wine over time, so if there are foul odors in the area, they can impact the wine. This makes it especially important to store the wine in a clean area dedicated to that purpose.

One potential mitigating factor when storing wine is vibrations. There is some debate about whether vibrations actually affect the quality of wine, but most agree that vibrations can at the very least disturb sediment that has settled out of the wine. This can affect the clarity and flavor of the wine. However, there are also some experts, like Anthony Beal of the Society of Wine Educators, who claim that vibrations can damage the chemical structure of the wine. Regardless, if your wine cooler develops a shudder, get it serviced as soon as possible and try to not install the cooler near equipment that causes the floor around it to vibrate.

Courtney Barkley
Courtney Barkley

Courtney Barkley has lived in nearly as many southeastern states as most Americans have probably visited, settling in East Tennessee in early 2013. She and her husband Thomas were married during ShadoCon 2012 – an anime, gaming, and comics convention – in a ceremony that featured a reading about dinosaurs in love from a friend dressed as Doctor Who. She spends her free time chasing her brilliant and imaginative son Nathan, hanging out with friends, binge-watching shows, playing video games, and keeping up with the characters of the Marvel Universe. And, any chance she gets, she sneaks off to Florida to visit friends and the happiest place on earth – Disney World.

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