WINE COOLING By Betty Stephens, Quest Media
Only a small percentage of fine wines benefit from long-term aging. Most wines are best enjoyed within a few years of release. If you’re looking to buy wines to mature, you should really consider investing in professional-grade storage.
The number one enemy of wine is heat. Temperatures higher than 70° F ages wine more quickly. If it gets too hot it may cook the wine. The ideal temperature range is between 45° F and 65° F. You can keep wines in your refrigerator up to two months.
Light (especially sunlight), can cause problems for long-term storage. The sun can degrade and age wine too early. This is one reason vintners use colored glass bottles. Light from household bulbs probably won’t damage the wine, but can fade your labels in the long run. Incandescent bulbs may be a bit safer than fluorescent bulbs.
If you do not have a cool, not-too-damp basement to store your wine, you can improvise with some simple racks in a safe place. Leave out the kitchen, laundry room or boiler room, where hot temperatures will affect your wines. And, stay away from a place with light pouring in from a window. Let’s look at types of storage and cooling for your wine
1. WINE CELLARS
It is through the cork that wine breathes and ages. Changes in the environment, (temperature and humidity), in a wine cellar causes the wine to age. If there is too much oxidation the wine will be bitter. Wine requires oxidation to mature; but, it must be controlled so that adverse conditions do not affect the aging process of the wine. The breathing pace is faster at high temperatures and slower at low temperatures.
A wine cellar cooling unit is designed to leave 50-70% relative humidity inside the cellar atmosphere, and only partially takes away moisture when necessary. The ideal humidity range for aging wine is 55-75%. Humidity levels of 80% or higher will cause mold to form and rot the labels. Lower levels draws wine out of the bottles and replaces the wine with oxygen rich air.
A wine cellar cooling unit is comprised of two main components:
1) the Evaporator
2) the Condenser
All you need to know about these two things is that the Condenser is typically noisy and that it requires significant space for ventilation. Self-Contained” cooling unit have both of these components contained within one single housing. A “Split System” cooling unit splits the Evaporator and the Condenser into two separate housings. the idea being to move the ‘noisy’ component so that you can place it where the noise won’t matter, maybe the garage.
Types of Cooling Units
The basic types of cooling units for wine cellars are:
1. Ductable Wine Cellar Cooling Units
2. Split Cooling Systems
3. Standard Through-the-Wall
Ductable Wine Cellar Cooling Units: are the best way to create the ideal storage
climate for your wine collection. The units are self-contained and have the ability to accept ductwork allowing the cool air to flow into your cellar and allowing the warm air to exhaust to an alternate location. There is no obtrusive cooling unit inside the cellar.
Split Cooling Systems: This is an ideal unit if a remote condenser situation is needed, or when looking for a longer lasting higher quality cooling system. With only an evaporator wall mounted in your cellar, you will enjoy ideal wine cellar climate control without the increased noise levels and vibration that entry level units tend to have. Split Systems are costly and they require a HVAC professional to install.
Standard Through-the-Wall Units: allow you to use a self contained system without any ductwork or refrigeration lines. You must have a larger interior space to vent the extremely cost effective units into. They keep the ideal temperature and maintain the proper humidity for your wine cellar.
2. WINE COOLERS/REFRIGERATORS
If you are looking to store and chill wine so you may enjoy them at their peak temperature and vitality, you might be interested in a free-standing wine cooler. Wine coolers/wine refrigerators or wine chillers are a great way to store and age your Chardonnay and Merlot under ideal conditions to get the most out of your wines.
If you are having a party or just enjoying a bottle occasionally, a wine cooler could give you the most flavor and vitality out of the wine you serve or drink. Having a separate refrigerator is vital for storing more than one or two bottles for a short time since a normal refrigerator is too cold and can it can spoil the flavor of your wine.
Choosing a Wine Cooler
Choose a cooler that has the most features and highest quality. They come in different price ranges. The average cooler is in the $200 to $300 price range:
Wine is a classy beverage, and you want your storage choice to look like an expensive piece of furniture. It should run quietly. And most important, it holds a constant temperature and humidity for the best storage. Check to see if it is easy to install and use.
The best wine coolers provide the most features for your money. The most important features to look for are:
o dual or single chilling zones
o digital or manual temperature controls
o the type of cooling method used
There are two types of cooling systems used in wine chillers. They are (1) the thermoelectric, or (2) compressor and coolant systems like the ones used in kitchen refrigerators.
You definitely will want to make sure the wine cooler will not stop working on you. Check the warranty.
• Storage Size
The wine refrigerator that you buy should provide you with the capacity to fit your storage needs. They range from eight bottle capacity to 50 bottle capacity and to 160 bottle capacity.
Some of the top-ranked wine coolers are: NewAir, Whynter and Danby.
The door itself is something to consider when buying a cooler. You must decide if you want to view the bottles or protect them from light. So look for glass that is clear, tempered, tinted, double-paneled or UV-resistant. Check the placement of the door. It should open on the correct side based on where you are setting it. You may want to consider a model that has a lock or an alarm.
More expensive units may have multiple temperature zones, which is a nice feature if you want to keep your reds at one temperature and your whites at a cooler, more ready-to-drink temperature. Humidity controls are also important. Look for a unit that is quiet. The better the materials such as aluminum shelves will conduct cool temperatures better than plastic ones, or a rough interior that will be better for humidity than a smooth one.
Wine racks can be used to store your wine collection. Table top designs will hold from two to as many as 48 bottles of wine.
Always remember that proper wine storage requires proper temperature and environment. Ensure your wine cellar or wine cabinet ages your wine to its fullest potential with a wine cooling unit. Wine cooling units keep your wine enclosure's temperature stable while reducing humidity to proper wine storage levels.