The title of this piece could actually be: “Aging wine in any large 21st century city” as all densely populated urban settings produce heat. What are the three enemies of wine storage?
The villains of wine storage are: extreme heat or cold temperatures and quick changes in temperature from hot to cold or viceversa, vibration and light. That is usually why visitors to wineries over the world often enter underground cellars that are free from the vibration of winery equipment and are cool and dark. These requirements are necessary for the maturation of wine into the special beverage it is today.
The impact of city life and heat on wine and grapes was driven home to me by an amateur grape grower in the US state of Tennessee. He said the vines he planted that faced the city of Chattanooga always ripened faster than those vines facing another direction.
Returning to wine itself, the first consideration for consumers is how much wine do you want to age and for how long? If one has the means, perhaps a specialized wine refrigeration unit to handle around six cases could be purchased.
However, this is like adding another refrigerator to the home and many wine lovers in condos and apartments will not have sufficient space to add a wine cabinet. In addition, the electricity usage will rise as an added expense. Another factor is noise. Buyers should check out the noise level of wine refrigerators before purchase. One sad owner told me her wine storage unit is unused because, “The d___ thing is too noisy!”
Another consideration is how long one will stay in a particular condo, apartment house or even in Bangkok. If one is in Bangkok on a two-year assignment a wine storage unit may have to be unloaded at a steep discount.
There are at least four wine storage units for sale in Bangkok stores at prices ranging from B20,900 to B17,500.
As an alternative to the major purchase of a wine storage unit, I will share my experience aging wine in Bangkok. Since 2003, I have lived in two houses consecutively. Both of these houses were ideal for wine storage as they had built-in cabinets as part of the house.
These cabinets were placed not in the front of the house but in the dining area in the middle of the house, thus, they were free from most of the noise and vibration of traffic passing by on the soi. They also did not receive the rays of direct sunlight or hardly any light at all as they faced north and south rather than east and west.
The amount of wine I age is usually about two cases-24 bottles- of different white and red wines. During this 12-year stretch I have never lost a bottle due to oxidation. I currently have wines dating back to the year 2000. I monitor these wines using a rechargeable flashlight to look through the bottles several times a year. Yes, I think the 2000 La Tour de Mons is ready to drink this year.
For mega-collectors, they usually have to built their own wine storage rooms or contract with a wine storage firm to store their many cases.
I will never forget an old friend in Memphis, Tennessee, a city that has a climate similar to Bangkok’s. A wine lover who told the construction crew to keep digging the cellar until it reached a constant temperature of F55 degrees (C12.8). When that depth was reached he hung a big thermometer on a post showing 55 and rushed me over to the uncompleted house as a witness.
Ah yes, the funny things that wine can do to people.
[Article by David Swartzentruber]