A few simple and relatively inexpensive steps can ensure that wine is served in perfect condition to your customers.
Dark cellars racked floor to ceiling with bottles covered in dust and cobwebs, and 50-year-old vintages sold at auction for thousands of pounds, are the type of images that often spring to mind when thinking about wine storage.
This is not a concept which will appeal to publicans, for a couple of basic reasons. First of all, very few pubs have the room to store large amounts of wine indefinitely. More importantly, the basic economics of running a business demand that stock is sold to customers and turned into profit as quickly as possible. Tying up funds in wine that can't be drunk for years or even decades is simply not feasible. Fortunately, neither is it necessary.
Most wine, especially that produced commercially, is intended to be drunk from within a few months to a year or so of being bottled. Equally, storing wine until it is ready is the job of the shipper or supplier. Any wine you buy for your pub should be ready to drink. However, like cask ale, wine is a product which can go off quickly if it is not looked after. Even if it is only going to be in your pub for a few days or weeks before being sold, there are some simple precautions you can take to make sure wine is in perfect condition when you serve it your customers.
- Racking - You can buy wine racking either off the peg or made to measure from a range of different suppliers.
- Position - ideally, wine should be kept on its side so that the cork remains moist, and so does not shrink
- Location - if possible, racking should be positioned in a dark room or cabinet. A quiet corner of the beer cellar or even a cupboard may be possibilities. You may consider having a small amount of racking behind the bar in order to help promote your wine offer. However, wines should not be stored in a warm, smoky bar for very long, so don't display any more than you are likely to sell over a couple of trading sessions
- Temperature - this should be constant, and relatively cool - about 10 to 14 degrees centigrade.
If your existing cellar is not suitable for storing wine, either for reasons of space or because it is too busy for the wine not to be disturbed - then a specialist wine storage cabinet is an option. As stated earlier, you can turn an existing cupboard into a wine cabinet. To do so you will probably need to install a specialist cooling unit, which are available commercially and are able to maintain the space at a constant temperature and the proper humidity, with very little vibration.
There are also commercial wine cabinets available. These vary in size, ranging from the size of a domestic fridge to a large commercial fridge freezer. The size you choose will depend on the amount of wine you need to store and the space available to locate a cabinet. Like a chiller unit, cabinets will maintain the wine at a constant temperature. You should also bear in mind that there are running costs associated with both.
It is also possible to convert a working fridge into a wine cabinet, by resetting the thermostat to the appropriate temperature for wine, which is typical about 8-10 degrees higher than a normal fridge temperature. If you have a fridge available, the cost of conversion should be considerably less than buying a cabinet.In the short term, white wine can, of course, be stored in a commercial fridge behind the bar or in the kitchen, However, storage at such low temperatures for more than a few days can affect the taste of the wine, while the vibration in a kitchen or bar may also affect its condition.
Once wine has been uncorked, it goes off quickly. Nevertheless, there are a few options open to you in order to preserve an open bottle for a short time.
The easiest course of action is simply to put the cork back in. This will keep an average bottle of wine in reasonable condition for a day or two. There are also vacuum systems available which work by pumping air out of the bottle.
There is a wine preserver that works by pumping a gas into the bottle above the wine. These systems are often used in restaurants, but are relatively expensive and may not be cost effective in a pub where only a few bottles of wine need to be salvaged each week.
Self-closing rubber stoppers are not normally recommended since the seal is often less than perfect.What to watch out for
There are a few basic hazards to watch out for which will help ensure your wine stays in good condition. The things wine really doesn't like are:
- Light - ideally wine should be kept in absolute darkness, but where this is not possible remember that bright lights or sunlight can affect the taste
- Vibration or noise - wine should be kept as still as possible. Avoid storage in busy or noisy areas
- Odours - wine corks are porous, and strong odours can seep through and be absorbed by the wine in the bottle
- Changes in temperature - avoid opening cabinet doors etc too often, since temperature fluctuations can affect wine
- Dry conditions - if the wine is stored on its side touching the cork, this should not be a problem; if it has to be stored upright you may need a humidifier.
Preserving the taste of wine
Steve Holt, marketing director of Grants of St James's Wine, explains why the way wine is stored can affect its taste:
The correct storage of wine, particularly in bottles, is important because it:
- develops the full potential of the wine
- prevents premature ageing or oxidation
- preserves the label (for presentation purposes) and
- enables efficient stock ordering and rotation
When wine is stored there is a slow change as the wine "softens" as it interacts with the oxygen in the airspace. This can be good news for some red wines but not for white or sparkling wines.
The ideal storage for wine is at a constant and cool temperature, around 13ºC and in a clean and reasonably dry environment without harsh light that can prematurely age wine.
If wine in bottles is to be stored for a longer period it is sensible to avoid vibration which could disturb the wine and the bottles should be kept lying on their sides to keep the cork moist and intact.
On this last issue, many winemakers are now using synthetic closures - rubber 'corks' - to guarantee that their wine cannot be tainted by oxidation through porous cork or spoilt by the existence of bacteria in natural cork.
Waverley's tips on wine storage
Looking for some help with storage advice?
Brian Taylor, Waverley Regional Sales Manager brings you five easy tips:
- For White wines try using glass-fronted fridges which are well suited in restaurants - smaller ones are perfect behind a bar. They also play a crucial part in merchandising. Remember - wines need to be seen to be sold.
- Red Wines - Reds need to be served at room temperature so are generally easy to store ready to serve.
- Racking in bars and restaurants provide an excellent additional form of merchandising but, bear in mind storage conditions. Do not keep wine too close to kitchen areas, glass washers or coffee machines since heat, steam and vibrations can have adverse effects.
- If they are not in the fridge, wines should be stored horizontally to keep the corks damp. If corks dry out they start to let air in which in turn causes the wine to oxidise. Wines can be kept in wine racks, shelves or quite simply the cases they are delivered in.
- If storage space is severely restricted, Intro2 Baby Bottles (18.75cl) in particular could be your answer. The Intro2 concept combines storage of wines with an effective merchandising display to encourage simple impulse purchasing along with quick and easy dispense. Your customers in tur