Glamis Castle and wine storage temperature

Years ago, wine was found in Glamis Castle in Scotland, I believe. It had been stored for decades in the 40’s Fahrenheit (40 F = 4.4 C) and the wine had aged at a glacial pace, the bottles showing beautifully. The wines sold at auction for huge prices, premiums above normal; many of them were quite old and rare as well. I decided after that to keep my wine at 50 degrees and I understand that Burghound Allen Meadows does, too.

From chemistry which for me was long ago), the speed of a chemical reaction doubles with every 10 degrees C increase. Wine aging is a series of chemical reactions–which in the case of a cold cellar, would be slowed down.

Nobody has proven that slowing down wine aging is necessarily leading to better aging, but in my limited experience, it does. I’ve kept my wine at 50 degrees for years and it seems to taste better and fresher than friends’ wines stored at higher temps.

Certainly heat can spoil wine. And it certainly ages quicker at warmer temperatures. Cold can’t necessarily make it better, but it does age slower, but as long as it’s possible and I see the benefit, I’ll continue to keep my wine at 50 degrees.



Heat will definitely slow the aging process (not sure about the 10 degrees C part though which is 18F). As such a colder cellar should keep wines “fresher” than a warmer cellar. This of course assumes all other variables are the same (humidity, …). I believe that Glamis was the coldest cellar Michael Broadbent ever had to catalog as he said he had to wear mittens it was so cold. The cellar also went undisturbed for a very long time as the key was lost which I’m sure helped things along too.

the central question for me is whether slow is better–with wine aging. Certainly wine reactions occur at a slower rate in colder storage temperatures. Does that necessarily lead to better aging? It will be slower aging, but is it better? In my limited experience, the answer is yes.


Well, 50 vs. 55 is probably not enough of a differential to make much qualitative difference in the chemical reactions that are occurring. Are you sure the wine is actually turning out better instead of just younger?

yes, tastes fresher to me but I have to admit I’ve not done any kind of randomized blinded study . . . and I agree that 55 and 50 aren’t much different, but many people store at 60 or 65 or bring a wine to a tasting that they’ve pulled off some 70 degree store shelf a couple hours earlier . . . and there’s a difference there.

I’ve been keeping my cellar pretty cold as well for the same reason. I kept it at 50 for some time and have just kicked it up a couple of degrees after discussing it with a few BB fellows who thought that I was really keeping it too cold.

Even if they’re not better, I still think that the wines are going to be younger and evolve slower which’ll give me a longer drinking window.

I don’t care if my wine ages better if I won’t be able to enjoy it until I’m 80 years old. My most profound Burgundy experiences have all been 30-50 year old wines. That makes the ideal drinking window on my 2005s 2035-2055, when I’ll be 58-78. I suppose I can live with that but I haven’t any desire to slow it down further.

Keith – It’s a two sided equation. You’re supposed to slow down your personal aging at the same time. [cheers.gif]

that’s the reason I’ve stopped buying any reds past 2005 . . . well, many reds . . .

If only I could do so by turning up the A/C!

Well, that’s what the “drinking wine” part is for in the first place…

I prefer a colder cellar, where possible.

The wines from a cooler cellar do seem to be fresher, and the tend to reflect the high points better, than say the same wine from a warmer cellar, which seems to “blunt” them (in terms of a comparison of the two).

Just IMHO.

Nearly 80 to nearly 100 for me so ~ age 75 I’ll be opening a bottle monthly methinks…

From chemistry which for me was long ago), the speed of a chemical reaction doubles with every 10 degrees C increase. Wine aging is a series of chemical reactions–which in the case of a cold cellar, would be slowed down.

Chemical reactions vary quite a lot in the degree to which they increase with temperature. Very slow reactions have activation energies, ie the molecules have to collide with at least a minimum energy in order to react. As the temperature increases, more of the molecules have that minimum energy. The functional form of the energy distribution at temperature T is such that the dominant temperature dependence of the reaction rate is exp(-E0/kT) where E0 is the activation energy. The idea behind aging wine at low temperatures is that the bad reactions generally have higher activation energies than the good ones, so the expontential factor supresses the bad ones much more than the good ones.

Is colder always better? I’m not sure. Certainly the supression of the bad reactions vs the good ones is even greater. But, besides the issue of the wine aging more slowly than the owner, it may change the balance of the good reactions (because they all have different activation energies).


Alan W, I keep my cellar at about 55 F. Longer term bottles are near the floor, where it’s about 52-53, and shorter term bottles are near the top, where it’s 55-56. Maybe not a big enough difference in temp to matter but is seems to work for me and at least it makes me feel good.

I did have a chance to do some blind tastings between bottles of the same wines purchased at the same time, one group inherited from my dad’s passive cellar (varied from 62-68 slowly with the season) and another group stored in my active cellar. My bottles were younger and fresher when the two were tasted side-by-side. I also thought in most cases that the peaks acheived by my bottles seemed higher, though since they didn’t occur at the same time as the passively stored bottles it wasn’t possible to compare them directly. These were '82 and '83 Bordeaux, Talbot, Gruaud, and Prieure Lichine.

Al O, your explanation makes a lot of sense, but how do we know that bad reactions need more energy than good reactions? Do we actually know what all these reactions are?

Al O, your explanation makes a lot of sense, but how do we know that bad reactions need more energy than good reactions? Do we actually know what all these reactions are?

At least some of the important reactions are known. Not by me, however, although I’d like to spend some time reviewing the literature some day. Part of my area of research is analogous to chemical kinetics modeling, except for highly charged ions in a high temperature plasma. I’ve read that the bad reactions have higher activitation energies than good ones, will try to find a reference. But, empirically, if they didn’t then aging wine on the timecale of years would cause your wine to degrade rather than improve.

Last week, I attended a dinner in Santa Barbara organized by Dave Yates and Larry Archibald that feature about 17 Rhones from the 1960’s to early 1970’s. The wines, which included CdR’s through Hermitage and Cote Rotie, were surprisingly fresh. They had been held in a passive cellar that was cool, but whose temperature varied slowly with the seasons.


Scotland, of course is an ideal place temperature and humidity wise. But here in the States, especially when we have an East Coast typical summer, would anyone be concerned that it is much harder to hold humidity in a reasonable range at 50 than, say 56. I find that at 56-57 degrees, I can keep relative humidity at around 50-53% without any problem. At 50 degrees, my Breezaire can’t maintain that humidity and it begins to drop into the 40s. And if I introduce humidity, the system just absorbs and drains out the extra water but doesn’t allow it to remain free in the room.

Here is another discussion of storage temperature and aging of wine:" onclick=";return false;

Heck-fire there Keith I want to say that at the tender age of 84 I’m just getting my drinking wings under me. Must admit that after my 75th birthday I cut down to 1 bottle a day at lunch and ceased opening the 2nd for dinner. VB [tease.gif]

Cooler is certainly better, but there’s virtually zero chance I’ll ever be able to ensure 50º storage (let alone Glamis Castle conditions), so I’ll have to be content to do what I can, which means for the most part under 60º at home and whatever I can get at offsite professional storage (which are few and far between in this area.)