There’s an undeniable art to aging a bottle of wine to perfection. No two crops of grapes are ever the same thanks to growing conditions, the time of year the grapes are grown, and the region of the world from which the crop originates. While these associations add a bit of mystery, there’s one constant: chemistry.
Vintners have learned over centuries, whether practicing conventional or natural winemaking, how the compounds within wine react with one another and how these reactions affect the taste. The most common of these are well-researched, and the changes that they cause are predictable; an understanding of these processes can help you age your wine the right way.
Bottled wines need an environment with high relative humidity. Seventy percent is usually ideal, as lower than that can cause corks to dry out or even crack, which will let evaporation occur. This lets more air into the bottle, which leads to oxidation – too much and your wine turns into vinegar as a result. Meanwhile, higher levels of humidity can cause mold to begin to grow on the cork; this could lead to contaminants altering the wine in such a way as to ruin it in a completely different way.
A careful balance is also needed when it comes to temperature. Keeping wine at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect way to encourage the types of chemical reactions within the bottle that add to the flavor while ensuring that undesirable ones don’t occur. Keeping a bottle cool can sometimes jeopardize the humidity level though, since air conditioning units tend to dry out the air; in such cases a humidifier is crucial.
Finally, wine bottles need to be kept in the dark, as ultraviolet light in excess will degrade organic compounds in the wine itself. A cabinet with solid doors, or one with UV-resistant glass, is a requirement for any wine not being stored in the absolute darkness of an underground cellar.