How best to store fine wines

By Alex Moore

3 minute read

Imagine splashing out on an exquisite Domaine de la Romanée Conti, waiting 12 years for it to mature, only to find its cork intact but the wine undrinkable.

It could happen to the best of us, hence why it’s not a bad idea to call in the professionals where storing fine wine is concerned.

If you’re serious about investing in wine, but not blessed with a suitably dark space to store it, you might want to look into professional cellarage. For the last 30 years, Octavian has set the bar in the UK, and perhaps even the world (Moldova’s Mileștii Mici might disagree), “helping connoisseurs maximise the value and pleasure of their collections.”

Octavian’s Corsham Cellars can be found in the heart of Wiltshire, 100ft underground in what was once a Bath-stone mine, and briefly a Ministry of Defence munitions dump. The Fort Knox of wine spans 20 football pitches and is home to over 1 million cases of precious liquids, valued at over £2 billion (which is why you’ve probably never heard of it – discretion is key). It’s this very particular geography that creates the perfect conditions for storing fine wine

What are the perfect conditions for storing fine wine?

Aerial View Of The Hills In The Surrounding Of Corsham Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom
Top: A bottle of Romanée Conti, 1987; photography by Alamy. Above: Corsham countryside in Wiltshire; photography by Getty Images

What are the perfect conditions for storing fine wine?

First and foremost, wine needs the right temperature to mature. It’s common knowledge that this is between 13 and 14 degrees, very close to the ambient temperature 157 steps below the Wiltshire countryside. Fluctuations in temperature can cause corks to expand and contract, letting air into the bottle and damaging your wine. Octavian monitors the temperature with internal and external sensors, drawing outside air into the facility, to avoid condensation.

Over time, a bottle inevitably loses some wine through evaporation, but by maintaining optimum humidity (Octavian set the industry standard at 75% to 85%), corks remain moist, which stops too much wine from disappearing into thin air. If, for any reason, the cellar air does become too dry, a series of ceiling water nozzles create a mist that dissipates before it reaches the wine cases.

Meanwhile, poor ventilation will create stagnant air that can damage a wine’s colour and flavour. Likewise, musty or strong smells have a habit of penetrating corks, which is why it’s not advisable to store wine near fruit, vegetables or cheese. Octavian employs the same air ducts installed by the MoD to ensure the subterranean air stays fresh at all times.

Does light and noise affect wine, too?

Too much light can drastically speed up maturation, and sadly this is what trips so many of us up (the same goes for photography and art). For centuries, winemakers have bottled their offerings in coloured glass to slow down the ageing process. But even the darkest glass can’t stop ultraviolet light from degrading your wine’s organic compounds, damaging its aroma, flavour and structure. Naturally, any wine in Octavian’s cellars spends most of its time in pitch black. 

Finally, vibration can lead to serious problems like dropped corks. Even the smallest vibrations can disturb a wine’s sediment, increasing chemical reactions and affecting the ageing process. Octavian has taken extensive steps to reduce any vibrations in their cellar, with marble-like polished floors and bespoke handling vehicles. 

And, here’s the clincher. Simply by storing it somewhere like Octavian’s Corsham Cellars, your wine will be worth more. Something to mull over, with a glass of one of your favourites, perhaps…

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