Wine blogs on the Internet are full of posts about the importance of temperature control from the wine cellar perspective. But what happens between the winery and the retail consumer? This discussion is uniquely from an insider/winery owner’s (and also a wine consumer) perspective.
We have occasionally been disappointed with wines purchased through distributors/retailers who did not exercise proper temperature control in the transport, warehousing, and storefront storage of their wine products. These were generally wines with several years on the clock (4-5 years) and from reputable wineries -wines that could likely have been exposed to prolonged storage at higher than proper temperatures.
Our assessment was that these wines were likely “cooked” – exposed to storage at prolonged high temperatures of 70+F – 80+F that can prematurely age a wine.
So how important are shipping storage temperatures to wineries? Consider this from a Wine Business Monthly article from November 2000 authored by Jeremy Hay – Many wineries will not allow their wines to ship wine in “dry” (uninsulated) semi-trailers and require either insulated trailers or trailers with refrigeration capability. In addition to absolute high temperatures, temperature excursions (raising and lowering of storage temperatures) is detrimental to wine. “According to the American Trucking Association, in 1998, six percent of the 501,000 American trucking companies were refrigerated carriers.” Yes – 94% of the trucks are not refrigerated – think about that some smoking-hot mid-west summer day.
Jeremy Hay continues: : “Florida is the country’s third largest wine market, average summer temperatures hover in the 90s–while distributors have cold rooms for their most expensive brands, the great majority of wines are stored at ambient warehouse temperatures…” “The bottom line of such conditions is that by the time most wines are chosen from a wine list or retail shelf, they do not taste the same as when they left the winery.”
Proponents of cooler storage temperatures generally recommend a range of 55F to 60F. Chemical reactions double in speed for every 18-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature–wine stored at 73-degrees will age twice as fast as it should, at 91-degrees, it will age four times as fast. The chart to the right from Vinfolio to depicts the impact of temperature on wine
At Eagles Nest Winery, we stress strict temperature control, and to further ensure medal- winning quality – we emphasize quality sustainable winegrape production, sanitary operations, and a careful winemaking and barrel aging/case goods regimen.
We believe second to quality winemaking and sanitary operations, temperature control is a key reason 100% of our Estate produced, and nearly 100% of our other wines have been medalists in International and National Wine Competitions (see Wine Awards). Our wines are barrel aged and store case goods stored below 59F at all times.
For the above reasons, you should carefully choose Winery Wine Clubs that ship only during cool weather seasons, and also consider accelerated shipping options to minimize the time your wine is exposed to non-temperature controlled conditions.
You should ensure that your local wine distributors and wine shops store their case goods at proper temperatures especially if you live in a warm weather regions. In these tight economic times, retailers may adjust their thermostats upward to save on power bills, compromising their wine inventory.
A temperature controlled storage unit in your home ro restaurant to protect your liquid investments for that future day of enjoyment. Don’t store your wine in that living room closet or automobile garage at 70F-80F degrees. See out a cool, dark, quiet, vibration free location. If your collection is large, commercial off-site temperature controlled wine storage is another option.
Shared below is a June 2010 article by wine expert and columnist, Dan Berger, from the Herald Tribune on the importance of wine transport, distribution and storage temperatures. Also discussed above were facts presented in an excellent article on wine shipping and storage in the Wine Business Monthly Archives click here.
Did the retailer take good care of your wine?
Wine is not only a living product, it is a fragile and delicate thing.
There are a number of factors in good wine storage that we all know about when it comes to establishing and maintaining wine cellars at home.
One is that the temperature remain constantly cool. This doesn’t have to be 55 degrees (which is the name of a business in the Napa Valley that stores all wines at that temperature).
However, 55 degrees is an ideal temperature if you are hoping to keep a wine for a while. White wines that are made to be aged (such as white Burgundies, most drier and even some medium-dry rieslings, some Loire Valley whites, Australian semillon and others) require such temperatures for extended storage.
The chemical reactions that can change wine in extended storage are like all other chemical reactions, and adhere to nature’s laws. It is known, for example, that chemical reactions are doubled for every 10-degree increase in the centigrade temperature.
So a wine that the winemaker suggests will be at its peak in 10 years at 60 degrees storage will reach that peak a lot sooner (about half the time) if stored at 80. And the wine will not be as fine.
This means that if this particular wine were stored at 80, it would be well past the point of enjoyability when it’s opened in a decade.
The temperatures in a half dozen fine wine shops in New York that I visited (briefly) were all about 80 degrees. Many of these stores had wines that (because of the recession, no doubt) hadn’t sold as quickly as they once did — and as a result, I saw a lot of older stock.
I would imagine that many of these wines, including some rather pricey red wines, were all but cooked on the shelves. In one store, I spotted a 2005 New York riesling which, under perfect cellaring conditions, might have been terrific. This store’s temperature was probably closer to 85, and I’m certain that the wine was no longer drinkable.
A truly fine wine shop cares about the provenance of the wines it carries, and insures that its storage conditions are at least as low as 65 degrees, without the winter-time heating that I also have seen in many cities.
Another problem is light. Direct light on bottles of wine can kill the wine’s subtle character, and some wines, notably those in clear glass bottles, can be ruined.
This “lightstruck” character leaves a white wine with a kind of “matchstick” sulfur-y aroma. And yet I was in wine shops where many white and sparkling wines, some in clear glass, were displayed in cold cases illuminated with fluorescent lighting.
Even 20 minutes under those conditions can create a lightstruck character.
If you want to ensure that you are getting a wine that the winemaker intended, buy from places where the cellaring conditions are at least as good as your own. And never buy wine in clear glass bottles from a display case.
Dan Berger lives in Sonoma County, Calif., where he publishes “Vintage Experiences,” a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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