Wine Talk

Snooth User: Anna Savino

How much is too much vibration for making your wines go bad?

Posted by Anna Savino, Oct 29, 2013.

Hi guys,


Maybe I am just being super paranoid like my husband thinks but I am slowly starting to fill my little humble cellar with barolos one by one. Unfortunately I live on quite a busy street and my cellar is an italian style basement downstairs in my apartment building. Construction has been going on, on and off for about 2 months and I am afraid this is going to mess with my wines down in the cellar. They are tearing up the road and I don't think it will be done soon. 


Any to advice as to what kind and how long vibrations have to last to ruin your wines? 


Interested in your opinions!




Reply by JonDerry, Oct 29, 2013.

Maybe look for an alternative storage for your best few cases of wine? It's really hard to know...I would guess the potential for damage would be small but you'll feel a lot better if you could diversify (at least temporarily) a bit. 

By the way, any under the radar producers we should be keeping in mind? I hear Foxall may be journeying over next year.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 29, 2013.

That's my plan, JD! Thanks for remembering. Any tips you have might be a good place to start a new thread.

As JD knows, I hope in retirement to plant some Nebbiolo in California to rival the Barolos and Barbarescos--I'll sell the grapes, not make wine.  GdP says I am nuts, but that's just encouragement to me.  So my plan is to come over once a year or so for the next few years, taste a wide range of vintages from different soils and meso- and micro-climates, made in different styles, then see what I like best and what I can reproduce in California. 

As for your vibration problem, I think you might want to consider relocating bottles if it is pretty dramatic.  If it's occasional, then maybe things will be okay.  I also would be more worried about wines I was going to drink soon if they were already old, but I don't know if the science supports that.  I just would worry that the precipitates would be put back into suspension and possibly interact badly with the fragile older wine.  Every home has some vibration, but little of it reaches bottles kept in a generally quiet area.  But we've all felt the rattle of construction equipment or a passing subway train.  (Sometimes I think the noise of the trains fools us into thinking we are shaking.)  Some locations are temporarily or permanently inhospitable. 

One alternative is buying a platform or substrate designed to dampen vibrations and putting the wine on that.  Audiophiles use them with their stereo equipment, so you could place your racks on vibration dampening feet or a pad, or just in cases on the pads. You could also make a sandbox contraption and place the wine cases on it. 

Reply by napagirl68, Oct 29, 2013.

For my work in a lab (nothing to do with wine!), I use acoustic panels on the walls, available many places online.  Also use vibration isolation "flooring" under certain equipment.  Super sensitive stuff floats on an air table, but you don't want to go overboard now, do you?  ;-)

Here is an example of products.  I just did a quick search- I did not use this company, but I can PM you if you are interested in who I recommend (I have the info at work):

Reply by Anna Savino, Nov 1, 2013.

Thanks guys! I feel much better after tasting a 2003 Barolo Luigi Oddero Vigna Rionda ....GIven the warm vintage plus possible bad storage conditions I was convinced this would be a bad bottle. Instead it was still very lively, fresh with some fine grained tannins upfront but a long smooth finish and a fantastic nose! Guess my cellar isn't that bad after all...


I will be moving shortly so will have to be careful with transport again. But I will be sure to get some nice racks and coolers for my wine this time, even if in the basement.


Thanks for your help!

There are a few producers under the radar that come to mind like Giovanni Corino and Osvaldo Viberti. Viberti has awesome barolos for just 24 euros! They finally got recognized this year by slow wine for best value and most of all are the sweetest people in the world...


Let me know Foxall when you come to town!

Reply by GregT, Nov 1, 2013.

Anna - what do you expect will be the damage to your wine? I'm not sure I'd worry about it all that much, especially if it's just construction, which will be over soon. Wines get shaken to hell in transport from one place to another and even within a winery and store, so it's not like they never move. We think that they have to be kept still because they were kept in caves and cellars historically, but the stillness may have simply been an artifact, not a requirement.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 1, 2013.

Anna, thanks for the invite.  I'll let you know, although rumor has it I will have a traveling companion and, if I pay my own way, a room to stay in.  But I can see a dinner together in the future. I'll IM you when the day gets closer.

GdP had some interesting comments about temp control last week.  We were down in my "cellar" which is a half basement.  It's passive and there's a furnace and a hot water heater.  I live in Cali, so the furnace only comes on in the winter (no pilot!) and both the furnace and water heater are heavily insulated.  So, in winter it doesn't get below 50 and in summer it migrates to 75 once in a blue moon.  I live in one of the most moderate zones in California--summer gets warm but not really hot but for a few days, and the temps in the basement lag.  But it's not what the wine cellar builders call ideal.  GdP has two cellars, one in upstate NY and one on Long Island, both are true basements and both are passive.  His opinion was that exactly even temperature is actually not ideal, that wines in chais in France and elsewhere did see temperature variation, and that seasons are part of wine's development. 

Greg has lots of opinions with which I disagree, but on this one, I think it's safe to say that constant temperature that inhibits development means the wine is just in suspended animation, which would mean no benefit to aging.  At the least, those great wines of Bordeaux predate temperature control, so draw the conclusion that's most logical. 

Finally, if we have to cater to wine to such a degree, why not just drink whiskey, which can sit open on a shelf for years?  (I'm actually drinking a Woodford Reserve that seems to be benefiting from years of being ignored while I drank other things.)

Reply by Anna Savino, Nov 2, 2013.

Good point guys... just thought that it was an interesting topic because I have heard so much about how vibration can affect wines and accelerate the aging process. Anyway, There is constant work going on for months so I just thought I would ask for a little feedback!


Thanks for all your help...


P.S. I have recently discovered Scotch after my trip to Scotland and came back with Springbank but it is too strong for me!!!

Reply by GregT, Nov 2, 2013.

His opinion was that exactly even temperature is actually not ideal, that wines in chais in France and elsewhere did see temperature variation, and that seasons are part of wine's development.

Can't really agree with any of that. I have tremendous respect for his knowledge, so I'm hoping something got lost in the translation.

I'd agree that some swings in temp might not be damaging, but there's no evidence that I know of indicating that fluctuation is better than constant. Some of the old places did have temp swings, but in many places the cellars were deep underground and the temps are absolutely constant. I've been in dozens of ancient cellars, and even new cellars, in Hungary and France and even Spain where the cellar was carved into a mountainside or excavated under a chateau or other building and the temp remains constant summer and winter.

If you have a few hundred feet of mountain on top of you, you don't get much heat penetration in the summer and you're far below any frost fluctuations.

And then, even above ground, some of the old houses in France for example, are made with 2 courses of stone surrounding a course of pebbles and smaller stones. The walls can be three feet thick. Even above ground, the temps don't fluctuate a lot in those places. Alternatively, at my uncle's house in Napa, he built on a mountainside and under his house, carved a cellar into the mountainside, which was just a huge wall of rock. He blasted out a portion that and stored wine there. Monitored temps out of curiosity and it held constant, even though that part of Napa gets extremely hot in the summer.

So while wine may not be damaged by some swings, that's different from saying that it actually benefits from swings. Moreover, why would the wine be in suspended animation? It would only be in suspended animation if all chemical reactions were to stop, which would mean near absolute zero.

The key is to manage the reactions. For example, since we know that brett multiplies rapidly once you hit the mid sixties Fahrenheit  but it doesn't grow so fast if you're in the fifties or below, that's one reason to keep your temps low. There are many things happening as a wine ages, and it's erroneous to suggest that they need temperature fluctuations to happen.

Evidence is all around us. You mix up some flour, water, and yeast and leave it in a warm place. It starts to ferment. Put it in the fridge. It does the same thing, just not as fast. But while it's in the fridge, different bacteria has a chance to work on the flour and the flour has a chance to absorb the water more completely. So you've managed to change the relative influence of the different reactions but you've not put the dough into suspended animation.

There are hundreds of reactions going on during aging and they all have different rates, so storing wine at a constant temp vs fluctuating temp vs higher temp will produce three different wines. A small difference in temp can double oxygen uptake, a larger dif can double the browning rate, particularly in whites, and a slightly higher temp increase can double the rate of sulfur dioxide loss. So if you have a large swing in temps, you certainly can accelerate your oxidation but why would you want to do that?

Wines that sit in barrels in relatively warm conditions for years or decades in Spain and the south of France are always oxidized, even when young, because the oxidation rate is so accelerated by the warmer-than-optimum storage temps. The different reactions are differently, and in most cases, exponentially accelerated by higher temps, particularly once you get much above 60 F, and most of the things that happen at the higher temps are things that you don't want to happen, while the things you want to happen, but that may take longer, do not take place. So you can end up with an un-evolved oxidized stink bomb of a wine, rather than an aromatic, perfectly mature bottle.


Reply by JonDerry, Nov 2, 2013.

I think it's an awful romantic view to believe that passive is superior to active cellaring. Of course if all your collection is passive, you'll want to believe it but put it this way: If you somehow had a passive cellar with little temperature variability, say 8 degrees (from 52 - 60) during a given year, would you then interfere and it give it more of a "seasonal effect" by having it drift up to 65 or 70+ during the summer?

I don't see the science in it, but I could see how passive cellaring could simply allow the wines to mature faster with minimal to no negative effects. With super old school Bordeaux, Barolo, or Tempranillo, this may very well be preferred!

One benefit I've had with my cellar club is that I've had a chance to taste some aged wine from other members cellars stored at relatively constant temp (55) and humidity. From the 17 year old Bourgogne and 15 year old Kabinett I had a chance to taste recently, the results were pretty astounding. 

I could see storing my more mediocre bottles passively and better collectibles active/constant to cut down on storage costs.

Reply by napagirl68, Nov 3, 2013.

I'm sorry, I am going to have to go with the active cellaring folks as well.  Reactions don't stop at a set temp- temp is only one factor, IMHO.  Things are slowed down at lower temps, and  I rather have a wine that is a bit young, rather than an oxidized bottle or brett overload.  I prefer the controlled temps for my good wines.

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