Storing your wine properly is a serious subject. If your wine isn't cellared correctly then it can be ruined and rendered worthless. Humidity, temperature, air quality, light and vibration are all factors that can interfere with how your wine matures.
The wine industry has long considered that a constant temperature between 55 °F and 60 °F (13.0 °C and 15.5 °C) is optimum for the storage and ageing of wine. If the humidity is too dry the corks shrink and air can get into the bottles and spoil the wine. Too damp and the labels can fall off. Wine can also be contaminated by foods - for example, you should never store your wine near fruit, vegetables, cheese or anything else that is capable of fermenting or, indeed, near anything that is highly noxious.
I use two companies to store my fine wines: the Corsham Cellars at Octavian Vaults and Vinothèque Wine Cellars, who are part of London City Bond.
Octavian Vaults have been delivering storage and logistics for 20 years and Corsham Cellars lie 100 feet below the hills of Wiltshire and are encased in solid Bath stone. Corsham Cellars has a history that is as interesting as the fine wines it now stores. It was first quarried in 1868, and mined until 1934. Bath stone extracted from the site has contributed to some wonderful pieces of architecture throughout the Commonwealth - from churches to libraries, theatres to hotels.
In 1934, the Corsham site was taken over by the Ministry of Defence and used as a munitions storage facility. It was purpose built for this role and provided them with impregnable security - it is extremely resilient and completely bomb proof.
Its location gives the cellars a naturally balanced environment for the storage of fine wine. The temperature is constant, and humidity is controlled at the optimum level. It is also a facility where natural light is totally eliminated, where vibration is non-existent and fresh air quality is maintained at all times.
Thanks to the depth of its location, Corsham Cellars enjoys a naturally high level of humidity, essential for the health of your wine. To ensure that the bottles’ packaging and labelling remain in good condition, they use sophisticated dehumidifiers to maintain the humidity between 75 and 80%. The underground cellars are gifted with a naturally stable temperature at a steady 13 – 14ºC and perfect insulation.
At 100 feet underground, the cellars are naturally devoid of sunlight, which ages wine prematurely. The size of the complex (almost one million square feet) also ensures that wine is stored no greater than 3 pallets high which means that they need only light lifting equipment, thus cutting down more vibration. Moreover, since the cellars are encased in solid Bath stone, with floors that are 20 feet thick, vibration from outside is non-existent.
To avoid stale air, Corsham Cellars has a remarkable ventilation system; 9-foot propellers drive air into every corner of the facility through miles of ducting. This ensures that the air in the cellars is always circulated and refreshed.
London City Bond dates back to before 1870 and the company has come a long way from its origins, stretching back to before 1870. From the beginnings as bargees and wharfingers on the Thames, through the great days of Empire in and around St Katharine's Dock in the Pool of London, and now based in the Port of Tilbury, London City Bond is now a multi-million pound turnover company, and the leading privately owned tax warehouse in the UK. They provide a comprehensive nationwide distribution service to more than 900 wine, beer and spirit merchants.
Vinothèque Wine Cellars is housed in a 19th century Victorian grade II industrial building in Burton Upon Trent originally constructed for the housing of grain for the local brewery. Its metre-thick, red brick walls ensure a constant and steady temperature, cool enough to ensure the wine within remains unaffected by the fluctuating weather patterns that affect the outside world.
The ground floor is in possession of those majestically grand columns and ceilings that are the hallmarks of the period’s industrial architecture and are now ideally suited to the storage of faster moving stocks of wines. The upper three floors are more intimate, more compact, and hence ideal for the cellaring of fine wines during maturation.
The temperature and humidity within Vinothèque are close to ideal. Insulation, air flow and natural light shuttering make certain that wines develop in a carefully controlled atmosphere. Constant monitoring ensures that all wines from inexpensive table wines to claret from top châteaux are kept and matured in ideal conditions. Private investors or trade customers can therefore be assured that their investment is secure. Equally important, the warehouse is physically secure and protected by a state-of-the-art intruder alarm system. The heavy oak doors and significant ironmongery from yesteryear have been boosted by CCTV cameras that monitor every angle and corner of the building. A security company – the same firm that protects the major banks and high value businesses elsewhere in the area – has 24/7 security patrols, and there are, of course, all the usual security checks and monitors on all staff and visitors to and from the site.