Wine Storage in a Basement: Interview With a Wine Expert
Chris Piper and John Earle, of Christopher Piper Wines, have been in business for 30 years. They began with just themselves and an old car – and now have 20 employees, their own warehouse and distribution service and a thriving sales team. Chris is a qualified oenologist (winemaker) and has made wine in Beaujolais for more than 30 years, most recently at Chateau du Pavé in Brouilly. Here they produce Brouilly itself, a Beaujolais-Village and a new addition to the range this year, a Gamay rosé. Here Chris answers some questions about storing wine – and whether basements make suitable wine cellars.
Q: What sorts of wines you deal with?A: Geographically, we deal with products from across the world, ranging from the French classics all the way to wines from Uruguay and Morocco - not forgetting England, of course. Every wine has to earn its place on our list so we specialise in high quality, good value wines wherever possible, rather than wine that has been made to hit a price point. If a winery decides to give their wines less than 100% in terms of commitment and quality, then the wine doesn't even get past our tasting panel, let alone make it onto our wine list.
Q: Which wines are particularly popular at the moment?A: The “muscley” Argentinean Malbecs are hot at the moment, as are the fragrant, exotic Torrontes whites from the same country. Lebanon has seen a major revival in interest whilst we've also seen a gradual shift away from Australian to South Africa, perhaps because of increased tourism and awareness of what RSA wines have to offer. The Rhône Valley reds have continued to excel and we mustn't forget to mention the major leap in quality of most English wines, despite the effects of two consecutive dire summers for our grape growers.
Q: How should wines be stored?A: There is still a substantial amount of good wine being sold nowadays which needs to be stored properly. Firstly, any wine bottles using a cork closure should always be laid on their sides (to keep the corks wet and expanded) except for Champagne and spirits which need to be stored upright. UV radiation is a factor in the longevity of the wine so a dark spot is best - direct sunlight should be avoided at all costs. The other major factor in modern homes is central heating as wine dislikes heat. This can dry the corks, which makes the wine prone to oxidation, or in excessive cases even “bake” the wine (maderisation). In both instances, the wine will be ruined. Even “spikes” in temperature should be avoided. One common mistake is to put the wines in the understairs cupboard without checking if any central heating pipes run underneath this space en route to the hallway radiator, for example.