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Categorized | General

Wine Questions And Answers


Is it harmful for wines to be stored in cardboard boxes?

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: December 3, 2009

Q: I have heard that it is harmful for wines to be stored in cardboard boxes as over time, they release a wet paper smell that taints the wine. Is that true? –Sun

A: I don’t believe there is any scientific basis for your contention. Wine is stored in impermeable glass bottles, hermetically sealed with corks or other sealants, then topped with metal, wax or plastic capsules. Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at U.C. Davis, says that even wines exposed to fumigation will be safe. However, if the box is damp, there is a chance that the wines’ labels could be stained over time. So it’s probably best that you rack your wines if possible.


Will it harm wine to be stored at a temperature colder than 55 degrees?

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: October 8, 2009

Q: Will it harm wine to be stored at a temperature colder than 55 degrees? —Gina


While 55 degrees Fahrenheit is the most widely agreed-upon temperature to store wine, some of the greatest Scottish wine collections sold at auction (like the Glamis Castle consignment of 19th-century Château Lafite Rothschild offered at Christie’s in the 1970s) were housed in natural underground cellars where the thermometer never rose much above 48 degrees. Many seasoned contemporary collectors have become enamored of the cooler-is-better concept for very old wines, because the slightly cooler temperature helps to retard the aging process. I know of one major New Jersey collector who cellars a portion of his collection at the standard 55 degree level, but places older, rarer bottles in a separate room at 48 degrees. A prominent Ohio collector stores all his wine at 48 degrees. While their approach has not been verified scientifically, I have sampled vintage treasures from these collections and have found them to be in remarkable condition.


How do I get my cellared red wines to serving temperature quickly?

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: July 16, 2009

Q: I store my wine in a temperature and humidity controlled storage cabinet. I keep the temperature set for 58-60 degrees. If I haven’t planned ahead or run a bottle short at a party, what the best way to quickly bring my reds to drinking temperature?

A: There is no "official" method. Wine Spectator tasting coordinator MaryAnn Worobiec suggested decanting the wine. I recommend immersing the bottle in a bucket of warm water. It is, however, definitely not a good idea to place a wine bottle in the microwave or the oven. Whatever method you choose, keep a close eye on the bottle, because you don’t want it to get too warm. Remember that Americans tend to drink their reds too warm compared to European wine lovers, who consider a temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit to be the optimum level. To retain a red wine’s freshness, you really shouldn’t let the bottle exceed 70 degrees. There are a variety of gadgets that can give you an instant read on the temperature of the wine inside the bottle. Features editor Owen Dugan has had some luck with the models from Vintemp.


Collecting Q&A: Is low humidity really that big of a problem?

Peter D. Meltzer
Posted: March 12, 2009

Q: I have used a medium sized passive cellar for the past two years. It has had a reasonably stable temperature range. However, the humidity during the winter months has been approximately 30-35 percent. I have also noticed that the wine levels (ullage) have decreased by approximately 1/4 of an inch. Should I be concerned with these ullage levels? Some of the literature I have read suggests that low humidity is only a problem if the cork is defective. Also, if I correct the humidity problem going forward, will there be any impact to long-term cellaring? –Matt

A: It depends upon your wine collection. If it consists primarily of wines that you plan to drink in the short term, I wouldn’t really worry. For the purposes of resale, however, almost all the wine auction houses now demand that consignments come from a temperature and humidity-controlled wine storage facility as opposed to a passive one. If you are storing wines to be consumed in the next 5-15 years, then you should thinks about remedying the situation. For starters, you could place a bucket filled with water in the cellar or install a humidifier. There are cohesive arguments that low humidity is not as much a contributing factor to deterioration in wine as was originally thought. If you’re interested in experimentation, you could mark the present wine levels on the bottles and see how much they continue to deteriorate once you have installed humidity controls.

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