On the cellaring of port

Anything to do with Port.
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jdaw1
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On the cellaring of port

Post by jdaw1 » 19:38 Fri 07 Dec 2007

This advice on cellaring port is based on several people’s comments in an earlier thread entitled Cellaring Port --- ideal temps/storage conditions, with contributions from a discussion of leaking bottles of Vesuvio.
  • Don’t get too stressed about fine detail. Port is a fortified wine and things don’t have to be absolutely perfect for it to age well over many decades.
  • The ideal temperature is about 12°C≈54°F to 14°C≈57°F. The day-to-night variation should be as little as possible, and the summer-to-winter variation shouldn’t be excessive. Fast temperature changes are thought to be bad; slow changes of only a few degrees are thought to be harmless.
  • Bottles should be lying down such that the cork is kept wet, either in racks or in original wooden cases. If holding port for resale then OWC is probably better.
  • Vibration is not good over the long term, as it can accelerate seepage through a senile cork, as well as mixing sediment with the liquid: don’t hold ports for many years in a fridge. (Though some wine fridges separate the motor from the cabinet containing the juice: such fridges should not be a problem.)
  • The ideal humidity is about 70%. The air should be sufficiently wet that the corks will not dry out; but extreme damp rots cases and labels more quickly.
  • Some port houses have foolishly put recent vintages in slightly larger bottles with a long neck. These bottles contain more air (a larger gap between cork and top of fill). So, for any given change in temperature, the corks will be subject to more pressure than old-style high fills, increasing the risk of leakage and of cork failure. Where there is a risk of temperature variation perhaps these bottles should be stored at an angle so that the liquid makes contact with approximately a third to half the cork. This inconvenient practice would then allow any expansion to force air past the cork, leaving the port in the bottle preventing apparent leakage. This theory has not been properly tested.
  • If bottles are stored in OWC one can detect a leaking bottle by sniffing the case. When port seeps from a bottle and then dries out it has a very intense smell.

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SushiNorth
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Post by SushiNorth » 06:12 Sat 01 Mar 2008

I found posts like this Vesuvio94 Leaker but i was wondering -- more generally -- would you buy a wine with clear evidence of leaking? How would size of bottle (375, 750, 1.5), age of wine (3 yrs vs 20+ yrs), or known quality affect how much you'd risk spending for a leaker? How would you store it (or "reseal it," as someone suggested)?

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Post by DRT » 09:38 Sat 01 Mar 2008

I do occassionaly buy leakers but only when I intend drinking them immediately and when the price is low enough to justify the risk. It is surprising how many leakers don't actually seem to have suffered from the experience.

I would be more inclined to buy a leaker of a known good wine as the price difference is likely to be greater. I wouldn't take bottle size into consideration.

Resealing can be achieved either by re-corking or replacing the wax seal.

Derek
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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uncle tom
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Post by uncle tom » 14:23 Sat 01 Mar 2008

The risk of a leaker being compromised is a little greater than for a sound bottle, but as an immediate drinking prospect they can be sometimes picked up for very modest sums, and represent very good value.

I would not give the same endorsement to table wines however.

If I acquire a bottle that has a leakage issue, but do not plan to consume it immediately, I place a cover of cling film over the capsule to exclude air,(held in place with an elastic band) and then store it upright.

Tom
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g-man
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Post by g-man » 19:12 Sat 01 Mar 2008

i would imagine for port, that leakers would only oxidize/madierize the port and not necessary ruin it.

It's not as bad as either TCA/corked or the affects on a table wine.

A red table wine should not taste sweet and nutty and have a higher amount of acidity. But with port, sweet nutty and a higher amount of acidity could lead to a pleasant wine that like my Noval LB, if i didn't know it was cooked woulda thought it was a pleasant tawny.

I agree with uncle tom that I'd be more ready to buy a port leaker then a red table wine leaker.

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SushiNorth
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Post by SushiNorth » 17:30 Tue 01 Jul 2008

Two questions about humidity...
1) How high is too high? I have a big, cool, dark... DAMP basement (dehumidifier is already running). There is definitely mold down there, but I'd like to think the enclosures protect the corks from exposure. I have not seen any mold on corks from down there, and some have been in those conditions for 3+ years.

2) Under damp conditions, can TCA spread from bottle to bottle?
SushiNorth
Image Port wine should perhaps be added -- A Trollope

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Post by g-man » 17:46 Tue 01 Jul 2008

SushiNorth wrote:Two questions about humidity...
1) How high is too high? I have a big, cool, dark... DAMP basement (dehumidifier is already running). There is definitely mold down there, but I'd like to think the enclosures protect the corks from exposure. I have not seen any mold on corks from down there, and some have been in those conditions for 3+ years.

2) Under damp conditions, can TCA spread from bottle to bottle?
60%-70% humidity i believe is the standard for a cellar. Some people even go as high as 85%, but I believe it's overkill and promotes mold growth and a very funky wet dog smell.

TCA is a chemical not a live agent ... so no TCA won't spread from bottle to bottle unless you opened a cork from a bottle with tca and stuck it on another bottle without.

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Post by uncle tom » 18:54 Tue 01 Jul 2008

The 'official' advice regarding humidity is focused on the desire by some people to preserve labels at all costs, even at the expense of some evaporation.

My cellar ranges from 80% to 90% humidity (currently 89%), and the degradation of labels is pretty much negligible. I have bought some bottles in the past where the original label has completely rotted away. There is no evidence that this is at all injurious to the contents.

I wouldn't use a dehumidifier, but to combat musty smells, avoid having any organic matter other than paper card and wood around - textiles and carpets are notoriously smelly when they get damp.

Don't worry about TCA in a damp cellar - it's caused by a cork defect, and is completely unaffected by storage conditions; it isn't catching!

Tom
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Post by SushiNorth » 19:44 Tue 01 Jul 2008

uncle tom wrote:The 'official' advice regarding humidity is focused on the desire by some people to preserve labels at all costs, even at the expense of some evaporation.

My cellar ranges from 80% to 90% humidity (currently 89%), and the degradation of labels is pretty much negligible. .... There is no evidence that this is at all injurious to the contents.

I wouldn't use a dehumidifier
I use a wine fridge for some special wines and it maintains a more consistent temperature and humidity (52F/70%) year-round, it sits outside the room with the wine which ranges from 55-60F but has humidity around 80-90%. My concern is that during the spring humidity rockets to 100%. I use DampRid in the room and a dehumidifier in an adjacent room (where things get really bad), which allows me to keep humidity at around 92%.

The damp section is low to the cement floor and it, being the coldest part of the house, condenses moisture the fastest. This results in high humidity close to the floor, but 2-3' higher (where there is greater temperature fluctuation... and no cement floor) the humidity drops by 10%.

The wood racks I'm using are pretty label-safe. but since I don't plan to sell the wine I only care that I know what it is.

(and yes, I read that cautionary tale about vibrating wine fridges, but with construction trucks rumbling up and down the street I'm not going to let this worry me).
SushiNorth
Image Port wine should perhaps be added -- A Trollope

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uncle tom
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Post by uncle tom » 20:01 Tue 01 Jul 2008

but since I don't plan to sell the wine I only care that I know what it is.
Indeed!

I tag every bottle in my cellar using a small luggage tag that has been cut down to about 1"

Every tag is numbered, which in turn is logged on the computer, together with the rack position of the bottle.

If a bottle loses it's tag, I can always look up it's position on the computer to check what it is, if it has also lost its label.

Conversely, it also saves me having to hunt for a bottle when I want one, or keep them in any particular order.

Tom
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Post by g-man » 20:51 Tue 01 Jul 2008

uncle tom wrote:
My cellar ranges from 80% to 90% humidity (currently 89%), and the degradation of labels is pretty much negligible. I have bought some bottles in the past where the original label has completely rotted away. There is no evidence that this is at all injurious to the contents.

Tom
The joys of owning a home with an appropriate cellar.

with 80-90% humidity, wouldn't you get mold if you had leaky bottles?

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Post by uncle tom » 21:19 Tue 01 Jul 2008

with 80-90% humidity, wouldn't you get mold if you had leaky bottles?
Yes, so I drink or re-cork them. In any event, a little bit of mould doesn't hurt! :D

Tom
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Post by JacobH » 21:48 Tue 01 Jul 2008

uncle tom wrote: Yes, so I drink or re-cork them. In any event, a little bit of mould doesn't hurt! :D
Of course, in many places, a black cellar mould (Google suggests its name as being Cladosporium Cellare) is positively encouraged…though I’ve never been sure if that’s for atmosphere or any scientific reasons!

-Jacob

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Post by g-man » 02:29 Wed 02 Jul 2008

uncle tom wrote:
with 80-90% humidity, wouldn't you get mold if you had leaky bottles?
Yes, so I drink or re-cork them. In any event, a little bit of mould doesn't hurt! :D

Tom
Sounds like a great next tasting ...

"The little bit of mould tasting"

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Re: On the cellaring of port

Post by Glenn E. » 22:56 Wed 09 Jul 2008

jdaw1 wrote:
  • Vibration is not good over the long term, as it can accelerate seepage through a senile cork, as well as mixing sediment with the liquid: don’t hold ports for many years in a fridge. (Though some wine fridges separate the motor from the cabinet containing the juice: such fridges should not be a problem.)
Is there an easy way to find out which fridges are which?

I recently purchased an Eurocave Digital 283 (not the high-end Performance series) under the assumption that it would be an appropriate place to store Port for many years. I have started filling it with 1994's and later with the hope of leaving them there for 20+ years to age properly.

Have I made an expensive mistake regarding long term storage?
Glenn Elliott

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SushiNorth
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Re: On the cellaring of port

Post by SushiNorth » 06:20 Thu 10 Jul 2008

Glenn E. wrote: Is there an easy way to find out which fridges are which?

Have I made an expensive mistake regarding long term storage?
if you are worried, you could put some foam between the bottles and the racks :) I keep mine in a much less expensive fridge and I don't sweat it.
SushiNorth
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Post by KillerB » 06:48 Thu 10 Jul 2008

Eurocave is generally considered high-end. I wouldn't worry if I were you, Glenn.
Port is basically a red drink

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Post by AHB » 07:32 Thu 10 Jul 2008

I've used a Eurocave at home for the last 12 years and it seems to do a fine job.

If you do decide to use foam to pad the bottles, be very careful that you still allow the air to flow properly inside the unit. They are designed in such a way as to allow air to flow evenly across the entire depth of a shelf. If you interrupt the air flow then you won't get the same even distribution of temperature and humidity.

Alex
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Post by Glenn E. » 18:47 Thu 10 Jul 2008

Whew! Okay, thanks, I'm glad to hear it should be fine!
Glenn Elliott

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Post by g-man » 21:41 Thu 10 Jul 2008

AHB wrote:I've used a Eurocave at home for the last 12 years and it seems to do a fine job.

If you do decide to use foam to pad the bottles, be very careful that you still allow the air to flow properly inside the unit. They are designed in such a way as to allow air to flow evenly across the entire depth of a shelf. If you interrupt the air flow then you won't get the same even distribution of temperature and humidity.

Alex
so true,

i keep my nice bottles at the bottom where it's a good 10 degrees cooler then the top where i drink them =)

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Post by Roy Hersh » 06:23 Fri 11 Jul 2008

I agree with Tom about the humidity factor. You don't drink the labels, so who cares. Having the cork remain in good condition is far more important in the scheme of things.

One thing I'd like to point out that I learned some years back. In some old Vintage Ports, lead was used to produce capsules on some bottles. When Port leaks and comes in contact with the lead, not only is lead dangerous ... but there is a chemical reaction which takes between the metal and the acid of the Port. Worse yet, through the capillary action, some of this chemically induced Port seeps back into the bottle and can have a serious negative affect on quality, especially when cellared for the long term. And that doesn't even speak to the introduction of traces of lead into the Port.

Dr. Dick Peterson, winemaker emeritus, taught by Andre Tschelistchef and Petersontook his spot in the late 1960s as the BV winemaker, famous for the great Georges de Latour (his daughter is the famed winemaker Heid Barrett-Peterson) was the first to bring this to my attention years ago.

So please do be careful if you have bottles with the old lead capsules, which show signs of seepage.

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