Storing and taking care of your wine

If you intend to build, or already have, an extensive wine collection, there are some thing you need to know to keep the wine at its best.

To ensure that you derive maximum enjoyment from your wine, especially if you plan to resell it in the future, it is crucial to maintain optimal cellar conditions.

Since its establishment in 2019, Strauss & Co’s wine department has emerged as a leading player in the market for collectable fine wines. Renowned for setting benchmark prices and achieving record-breaking sales of esteemed South African wines from renowned vineyards such as Boekenhoutskloof, Kanonkop Estate, Klein Constantia, Meerlust, and Sadie Family. Strauss & Co’s team of wine specialists comprises of recognised industry experts.

Their profound knowledge of wine cultivation, storage, marketing, and sales informs the company’s strategic mission to highlight exceptional South African wines. The experts at Strauss & Co Wine have shared their insights on how to store and care for your wines correctly until the moment you decide to open them.

Storing your wine:

  • Temperature – Ideal range between 12˚C–16˚. The key is avoiding fluctuations.
  • Darkness – Store wines in a dark space, as light prematurely ages wine.
  • Store your wine on its side – This position keeps the liquid in touch with the cork.
  • Quiet – Free of vibration and other movement which will disturb the sediment.
  • Humidity – roughly at around 70%. This prevents the cork from shrinking.

Opening older corks:

Natural corks are often used to seal wines meant for aging. However, it is important to be cautious when dealing with a cork from an aged wine, as it tends to become brittle and fragile over time. While it is challenging to predict exactly when a cork will lose its elasticity, a sensible rule of thumb is to handle all wines older than 10 years with care when uncorking for enjoyment. This applies to white, red, and fortified wines, with the latter being especially delicate.

If you are using a regular screw opener, ensure that the screw is inserted into the center of the cork and deep enough to avoid pulling out only the top half of the cork. Slowly and gently pull the cork upward. For particularly fragile corks, specialised prong openers, also known as “Ah So” openers, can be helpful. In most cases, regular bottle openers can be used as long as the process is carried out slowly and carefully.

If the cork does disintegrate, and a few pieces fall into the wine, do not panic. This does not necessarily mean the wine is spoiled. Simply decant the wine using a funnel and sieve or any clean filtering method you have available. It is important to note that a corked wine refers to a wine sealed with a defective cork and can appear perfectly healthy in a young wine. The presence of cork pieces in your wine can be removed without causing harm. Remember, the true test of a wine’s condition lies in its taste.

Many red wines and Port-style wines develop sediment over time. This harmless deposit indicates a more natural winemaking process with minimal filtration by the winemaker. To prevent sediment from ending up in your glass, move the bottle from a horizontal storage position to a vertical one a few hours before serving.

When decanting older red wines that have been decanted to remove sediment, it is crucial to serve them immediately afterward. Older wines are more susceptible to oxidation, and excessive aeration in a decanter should be avoided compared to younger wines.

In essence, the older a bottle of wine, the more respect it commands. However, the extra care you invest in handling older wines will be well worth the reward waiting inside the bottle.

Understanding ullage in wine and its importance:

Ullage refers to the space between the closure (such as a cork) and the liquid inside a wine bottle. Over time, it is expected that ullage levels will decrease due to cork absorption and evaporation. Ullage serves as a reliable indicator of a vintage bottle’s condition, with lower levels not being acceptable in young bottles of wine. In general, levels below mid-shoulder in Bordeaux-shaped bottles or 7cm in Burgundy bottles are not typically accepted, except in extremely rare and old examples.

A leaking and mouldy cork, combined with low ullage, can be early indications that the wine inside may be flawed and has not been stored under optimal conditions. Wine leakage could signal a faulty cork or exposure to high temperatures, causing the wine to seep past the cork. In either case, the wine could range from being perfectly fine to unpleasant or somewhere in between. If the cork has allowed more oxygen in, the flavours may have acquired a nutty, oxidized note. If exposed to extreme temperatures, the wine might taste stewed or tired.

For more information and details about upcoming Strauss & Co wine auctions:

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