Part 3.3 Proper Wine Storage (Vibrations and Security)

Master Sommelier John Szabo presents a series of articles offering practical advice on building a wine cellar as a source of personal enjoyment and investment. This is Part 3.3, the last of three instalments focused on proper wine storage conditions.


See Part 1 and Part 2 of our three-part series on proper wine storage. Read on for Part 3. 


Intuitively, you would think that exposing wines to continual or even occasional vibrations (from fridge compressors, passing streetcars or subways, loud music, etc.) would have negative effects on wine — and you’d be right.

Nobody likes to be shaken up. Studies have shown that vibration can result in significant changes in the physio-chemical properties of wine, effectively accelerating its evolution and, as with heat, not favorably. The higher the rate or intensity of vibration, the more rapid the changes. Vibration has been shown to result in a decrease in tartaric and succinic acids, causing a reduction in esters, which in turn dulls flavours. Vibration also increases the amount of propanol isoamyl alcohol, which reduces aromatics and accentuating acetone notes (nail polish remover).

Another more obvious and visible effect of vibrations is the shaking up and re-suspension of the sediment that forms in most (red) wines over time. In any case, most old red wines should be stood upright (in a vibration-free area) for a day before serving to allow the sediment to settle, so you can decant off the clear wine and leave the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.


How Xpeditr Maintains Bottle Integrity 
The top tier auction houses have strict rules regarding the handling and shipping of fine wine, and Xpeditr is the shipper of choice for these houses.

Proper shipping techniques are crucial in order to avoid stressing (or ruining) wines through excessive vibration or environmental variations. Shipping fine wine via overnight courier is never a good idea, especially for older wines with softer or shrunken corks — the wine will slosh around and possibly breach the seal, resulting in leaks, an incursion of oxygen, or complete loss.

Xpeditr packs older wines upright in double corrugated boxes to reduce bottle shock. Specially modified temperature-controlled trucks are equipped with G Force Impact Monitors, which sense motion parameters (turning vectors, altitude, etc.) and breaking forces, giving drivers immediate feedback. The trucks are custom tuned for extra suspension and drivers are monitored and selected based on the care they take on the road.

The choice of route is also crucial. Routes are plotted to reduce rapid climbs or descents. Finally, Xpeditr uses its military contacts to get a heads up on extreme weather and storms, enabling our project planning veterans to schedule the safest route for your wine collection.


>> Stable conditions are important when shipping wine. Xpeditr’s temperature controlled vehicles ensure your valuable collection stays safe on its entire journey.



Given the amount you are likely to invest in your wine collection, securing it is essential. As mentioned in part one of this series, an average wine investor can expect their collection to grow to be worth more than $150,000 — or up to $1,000,000 US if you join the top third of collectors. There’s no sense having an optimized ageing environment if your wine is susceptible to loss or damage due to fire, theft or equipment failure. Over time, much of it will become irreplaceable. 

Professional storage facilities come with robust security and safety measures. In the next post I’ll look at some of the pros and cons of storing your collection with a third party. But, if you’re planning on storing your collection at home, here are some things to consider.

The greatest risks to home wine collections are probably fire and equipment failure. Private residences are not usually equipped with sprinkler or fire suppression systems, the kinds of systems found in professional storage facilities. If there is a fire in the vicinity of the cellar, damage is almost inevitable and total loss a possibility. I have a colleague who lost a lifetime’s worth of collected wine to a house fire — it was tragic for her to sift through the remains and taste bottle after bottle of heat or smoke-damaged wine. While your insurance may cover all or part of the value, irreplaceable old vintages are, well, irreplaceable. If your collection is valuable enough, some form of fire suppression system, at least in the environs of the wine cellar, should be considered. This might also bring down insurance premiums.

More common in residential wine collections is loss or damage due to equipment failure. Despite investing vast sums of money into a home-storage systems — even a relatively modest cellar will run upwards of $50,000 US — few go the last step to install redundancy into the system. If the cooling unit fails, or the power goes out, the temperature will begin to fluctuate within minutes and damage follows closely behind that. And without some kind of remote temperature/humidity monitoring system that sounds the alarm if the cellar environment goes sideways — common on many cellar management apps these days — failed compressors can go unnoticed for days or weeks. Imagine if it were to occur while you’re away on holiday, only to return to cooked or frozen wines. I know a collector who’s failed cooling system went undetected for at least a month, and a large part of his collection was ruined (I was called in as an expert witness in his claim to the insurer). Having a backup power generator will put your mind at ease.

As for other acts of God like tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, your only real protection is proper construction in the first place, and a tight insurance policy. In the case of floods, while water won’t necessarily damage the wine itself (unless the water happens to be hot), but it could cause breakage, and the water will strip off labels. Not only does this make resale virtually impossible, but you might also find yourself doing a lot of blind tasting — drinking wines whose identity and origins you can only guess at — as a friend discovered when he ran out of room in his cellar and started storing bottles in his swimming pool during a hot summer.


>> Read more about Xpeditr’s capabilities for emergency evacuation and protection of fine wine collections during catastrophes such as floods, earthquakes and tornadoes.

Finally, Wine collectors routinely rely on home security systems that are likely ineffective against professional thieves. Restaurants, too, often overlook proper security for their wine collections —read about a meticulously planned fine wine heist from a Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant. Fortunately, most thieves won’t be interested in lugging heavy, breakable bottles of wine out of a house, nor know which bottles are worth taking in first place. Thievery is more likely to occur from inside jobs: relatives, friends, children, or spouses drinking precious bottles before their time. A lockable door and proper cellar organization — so it’s clear which wines shouldn’t be touched — will go a long way to protecting your most valuable assets.

Check it out Part One and Part Two in the series.