What is the best way of storing wine? This living product continues to age even after bottling and can spoil if it is not stored properly.
Winemaking enthusiasts take enormous pride in their collections that are stored in designer birch wood bottle racks or sophisticated wine cellars just like the Ancient Egyptians prided themselves on their terracotta amphorae.
Winemaking techniques have developed in line with wine-storage and preservation, driven by these four inventions:
Although earthenware amphorae for storing food and liquids were already in use in Neolithic times, it was the Ancient Egyptians who perfected the design of these vessels for storing wine. Their long necks reduced the surface of the wine exposed to oxygen and their thick bases promoted the accumulation of sediments. The use of Egyptian amphorae for storing and transporting wine became widespread across the Mediterranean.
The Celts stored their beer in oak barrels. After the conquest of Gaul, Rome adopted this system for storing and transporting wine. Barrels were more advantageous than earthenware amphorae and vats: greater shock resistance and much easier to handle. Wine producers and merchants soon discovered that wine kept in this type of container better retained its properties over time. We now know that the exchange of oxygen between the barrel and the outside air helps to stabilise the molecules found in wine and that is why barrels are still used for the ageing process.
Glass and crystal containers had been used since ancient times to serve wine but it was not until the seventeenth century when new glass making methods made it possible to produce bottles of greater quality and stability, suited to long term wine storage. From 1730 onwards, wine bottles were stored horizontally, in space-saving wooden bottle racks and the shape of the bottle changed from being flat and wide at the bottom to become the cylindrical shape we know today.
Corks were introduced in the seventeenth century although their use did not become widespread until the nineteenth century. This approach to sealing wine bottles was a major improvement over the old wooden stoppers covered with fabrics and oil or pitch that changed the taste of the wine without ensuring any seal. Corks made the horizontal storage of wine bottles in wooden bottle racks possible and guaranteed better conservation of this precious liquid.
As you have seen, wine storage has evolved and adapted to the practices and customs of the time as well as any new materials that became available.
Today, functional yet uniquely designed bottle racks for the home are available for wine lovers such as the Otto bottle rack .
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