March 15

Conditions that can cause premature wine aging

The Basics

These days, multiple storage locations are available, be it at home or in a rented space reserved for that purpose.
Yet, since many elements can vary significantly from one place to the next and eventually have negative consequences on the ageing of long-keeping wines, the following conditions should be carefully monitored:

  • light exposure
  • humidity
  • insulation of the room
  • vibrations
  • temperature variations

Many studies have indeed been conducted, notably one in Bordeaux by the Chamber of Agriculture of La Gironde, comparing the evolution of a same wine stored in various wineries with variable conditions. It has been graphically shown that variations between storage locations have a real impact on the speed at which wine declines, to the point where it can be determined through blind tasting!
In light of this study (among others!), we conclude that daily temperature variations are the main factor behind premature ageing and taste imbalance of a given wine.
Therefore, even though the storage location is at the “ideal” temperature “on average”, the temperature fluctuations are actually the greatest long-term hindrance to the ageing of wine in a bottle.

The founder/ CEO Marc Russell of The Fine Reserve Wine Storage in Toronto explains this phenomenon:

“Wine is a complex and fragile balance of amino acids, phenols, carbohydrates and other chemical compounds. Ageing wine is a series of different chemical reactions between these compounds (…) These reactions are easily affected by physical and chemical changes taking place in the environment, particularly temperature. (…) Whereas all the various chemical reactions I mentioned will “accelerate” with rising temperature, each reaction “accelerates at a different rate” . This causes undesirable changes. For example, heat causes the solids (tannin and colour) to drop out at higher rates than the sugars and acids are reacting, causing an imbalance.”

Marc Russell from The Fine Reserve | Wine Storage. (2016). Proper Wine Storage Facts. Click here

Jancis Robinson, another renowned expert of the wine world, writes:

“(…) temperature becomes the governing factor in the much slower reactions in bottle that constitute wine ageing. Interactions among the thousands of natural organic chemicals in the wine during this important phase of its maturation are directly affected by temperature. ¹ (…) In general, the more slowly a wine matures, the greater the complexity of the flavour compounds that go to make its bouquet.²”

¹ “Ageing” (2006), dans The Oxford Companion to Wine. New York : Oxford University Press Inc., p.5-6.
² “Storage Temperature” (2006), dans The Oxford Companion to Wine. New York : Oxford University Press Inc.,p.690-691.

According to Wine Spectator:

“Temperatures higher than 70° F ( 21°C ) will age a wine more quickly than is usually desirable. And if it gets too much hotter, your wine may get “cooked,” resulting in flat aromas and flavors. The ideal temperature range is between 45° F and 65° F (and 55° F is often cited as close to perfect), though this isn’t an exact science. (…) More important than worrying about achieving a perfect 55°F is avoiding the landmines of rapid, extreme or frequent temperature swings.”

Wine Spectator. (2011). How to Store Wine 101 : 7 Basics You Need to Know. Click here

If the room in which the wine is stored can be held responsible for certain shortcomings, we cannot ignore those caused by the compressor used to cool the wine cellar. Just by the way it works (stop / start / stop / etc.), this technology we have been using for many years is directly linked to these daily variations in temperature that are so damaging to the quality of the ageing of bottled wines.

Conditions that can cause premature wine aging

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