Port Basics

Viticulture

Enjoying Port

Vintage Port, like all fine wines, prefers to remain undisturbed, lying on its side in a dark and at least slightly humid place at a stable temperature of between 10°C and 14°C to mature properly. But if you are not blessed with the classic underground stone cellar, do not despair! With a little care, wine can be stored at home, or you can store it in specialist cellars.

When assessing your home for a suitable site for storing Vintage Port or any fine wine these should be your considerations:

  • A dark place – light is an enemy
  • The temperature should be be constant, and certainly not subject to sudden or extreme changes of temperature. Constancy is more important than the actual degree reading, though you do want to choose a cool place, 15°C or less.
  • Humidity should not be an issue unless you live in a very dry climate, or use dehumidifiers in your home, in which case try to store the wine in a place with some natural humidity, to help keep the corks in good condition

Generally, a closed cupboard well away from radiators or other heat-generating appliances, windows, doors or even exterior walls will be adequate. Many wine shops sell special thermometers that provide both temperature and humidity readings, and these can be a worthwhile (and modest) investment to monitor conditions in your improvised cellar.

All fine wines should be stored lying on their side, and remain undisturbed until brought out for enjoyment. Most Vintage Port is sold in wooden cases with the bottles packed horizontally; the wine will age perfectly well in its own case. Any odd bottles can be laid on their side on shelves or in wine racks. Traditionally Vintage Port bottles had a splash of white paint which was kept uppermost in storage, so that the crust would develop uniformly in one place.