Wine storage: good practices

Storing bottles of wine or spirits cannot be improvised. Indeed, these sometimes highly sought-after and valuable bottles contain living products that are sensitive to the effects of handling and to variations in temperature and humidity.

Wine storage and warehousing are two of the many links in the long and complex chain of preservation and evolution. As such, the Supply Chain must be able to adapt to the logistical requirements of wines and spirits, in order to help maintain the taste quality of the stored products. This quality is achieved through a long process, from the harvesting of the fruit to the opening of the bottles by consumers, via the work of the winemaker and the wine merchant.

We therefore propose an overview of good practices to be implemented so that each bottle can have the best possible level of conservation, resulting in a successful tasting.

Wine logistics faces many challenges

Every year, several billion bottles of red wine, white wine, rosé wine or champagne produced in France are transported and stored by the logistics sector to supply the various sales channels in the sector: wine merchants, independent retailers, supermarkets or e-tailers.

If the general public perceives above all the work of the first and last link in the chain, which are the chateau or estate of production and the seller, it generally forgets the preponderant role of the logistical sector in storing and transporting astronomical quantities of bottles, throughout France and the world.

As we all know, bottles of wine and spirits are fragile, delicate and unstable products, as they are sensitive to external conditions. Moreover, the production of wine and spirits is seasonal, which makes each new year of production and sale a new challenge, as the new production leaves the cellar of the estate or château.

It is therefore necessary to treat each bottle with the care and attention it deserves. The logistics sector therefore faces many challenges in implementing several good practices that are essential for the optimal conservation of wines in warehouses.

Controlled storage temperature

The first point is also the main risk associated with wine conservation: it concerns temperature. Wines have always been stored in the cellars of producers, wine merchants and certain enlightened and well-equipped consumers because they find there the right conditions to age and improve over time.

In a cellar, a barrel, a case or a bottle of wine is protected from strong temperature variations, both in summer and in winter. Temperature stability is the main element in preserving the quality of taste, so it is important to recreate and control this condition in storage.

The advice of experts all points in the same direction, namely an ideal and permanent storage temperature of between 12 and 16 °C. Thanks to modern means of real-time sensors, heating and air conditioning systems, it is possible to set up a storage space that meets these criteria, regardless of the type of warehouse. Wines can easily withstand temperature variations within this range of 12 to 16°, the only thing is that they should not be sudden and brutal.

It is also important to pay special attention to bottles from grands crus, as they are not only more expensive, but also more sensitive to storage conditions. In addition, the level of demand from customers is increasing for these exceptional wines. All technical means must therefore be employed to maintain the temperature within the recommended range, as it often takes little to spoil and deteriorate a case of wine.

Humidity, exposure to light and vibration: preventive measures

In addition to temperature, several other factors have a significant effect on the storage quality of wines and spirits.

First of all, the surrounding humidity must be monitored. Indeed, the recommended humidity level for optimal conservation is between 70 and 75%, which may seem high, but is in fact the level found in a regularly ventilated cellar. Below 70% humidity, there is a risk that the cork will shrink due to drying out, leading to premature oxidation of the bottle. This phenomenon can lead to the cork falling out of the bottle. In addition, due to lack of care, a wine bottle with a shrinking cork can pick up bad smells from its surroundings, resulting in a permanently deteriorated content.

Conversely, too much humidity does not pose a real risk to the beverages contained in wine and spirit bottles, but it can cause serious damage to labels, cases or cartons. Even when the humidity level is correct, it is therefore advisable to install ventilation to combat the risk of mould and bad smells.

Wines only moderately appreciate exposure to natural light, as UV rays can develop pungent aromas of alcohol (very recognisable when tasted) and increase the oxidation of the products. It is therefore necessary, always with the idea of finding the storage conditions present in the cellar of a château, to prefer conservation in the dark, which can be temporarily broken with moderate artificial light. Bottles of wine packaged in crates or boxes are protected from light and should therefore remain there during the storage period.

It should also be mentioned that red or white wine is particularly sensitive to vibration and shaking, which can awaken unwanted bacteria and keep the tannins in the wine in suspension. Storage areas must therefore be sufficiently solid or cushioned to prevent the transmission of vibrations, which are common in storage and handling warehouses.

In what position should the wines be stored?

When you open a case of wine, you will immediately notice that the bottles are lying in their cases. This is not a coincidence and should be respected during the storage and ageing of the wine.

Indeed, there must always be contact between the cork and the liquid, so that the cork remains moist and does not shrink. As we have just said about humidity, when a cork shrinks, the bottle is no longer watertight and the wine is subjected to conditions that are conducive to its oxidation and to the capture of bad smells.

To conclude this long list of requirements for good practice in the storage of wines and spirits, it is essential to add the maximum security of storage spaces. The price of certain bottles of fine wines is increasingly whetting the appetite of the unwary and, as cases of break-ins are becoming more frequent, it is important to use all available surveillance and alarm systems to secure the warehouses of the wine logistics sector.

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