Roman Wine Cellars, Vinum Storage and Transport

Roman Wine Cellars, Vinum Storage and Transport

Roman wine cellars were called cella vinaria, and not vinariums or even vinum cellariums.

While the idea of visiting ancient Rome and drinking a cup of wine may seem appealing, it’s quite likely the beverage itself would taste rather poorly when perceived by your modern mouth. Romans had to work hard to keep their wine from spoiling, or taking-on foul odours, or becoming vinegar which they called Acetum. Another Latin word Vappa describes wine that has been left for too long exposed to the air and has lost its properties and become insipid. Furthermore we know that Romans had a preference for adding strange ingredients to their wines (because they’d already spoiled, or to arrest their spoilage) and pitch (beeswax and pine tar) from their crude containers would have been frequently tasted in the vinum depending on your status. Today when we read the works of Roman writers—most notably Cato, Columella, Horace, Catullus, Palladius, Pliny, Varro and Virgil, we gain insights into the role wine played in Roman culture, as well as how wine storage affected early viticultural practices.

Four different kinds of wine are said to have been present for the first time at a feast given by Julius Caesar in his third consulship (B.C. 46), these being Falernian, Chian, Lesbian, and Mamertine. Historians agree that is was not until after this date that the merits of the numerous varieties, foreign and domestic, were accurately known and fully appreciated. During the reign of Augustus, the study of wines became a common passion, and the most scrupulous care was bestowed upon every part of the wine-making process including the preservation of fine wine. The perishable liquid had religious, medicinal and social roles that set it apart from other Roman cuisine. Throughout the history of the Roman Empire, the demand for wine increased with the wealth of its middle class subjects.

Romans stored wine in the cella vinaria, and if you were ever invited into one of these sacred places you would encounter vinum (wine) fermentation and storage vessels known as dolia defossa. Very often the ceramic containers were buried in the ground, but during production some big pots were worked above ground. Each of these large cisterns would typically have just under 1,000 liters capacity and be buried up to their necks in the floor to keep the temperature of the wine constant and cool. The cella vinaria was always carefully located away from odorous industries like leather tanneries, butcheries or animal dung heaps.

Dolia Defossa in Ostia Italy

The best wine in the cella vinaria was stored separate from the submerged tanks. It was transferred from the dolia into special made terracotta amphorae that had their insides coated in beeswax. If Romans were to rack the wine, they would transfer it into these study containers for long term storage in their cella vinarias or with other goods in regular warehouses.

Ostia (seen above) in Italy boasts the best known example of an ancient cella vinaria that’s filled with dolia defossa storage containers. In one room there are twenty-two buried dolia for wine and olive oil. Ten jars have numbers indicating their capacity in amphorae (one amphora = 26 1/4 litres). On average, the dolia contained 33 amphorae each. The twenty-two dolia at Ostia could store nineteen thousand liters of wine!

Romans making wine, filling dolia with juice in a cella vinaria

Wine or Vinum Storage in Ancient Rome

How Romans stored wine tells us a lot about their industry and their understanding of science. They knew that air must be kept out of the storage vessel to prevent wine’s oxidation. The container must be strong enough not to easily break, but without being so heavy that it cannot be easily moved. In many cases, the vessels needed to be opened periodically and then resealed. Furthermore, the jar itself shouldn’t interact with the wine, meaning it shouldn’t impart any flavour of its own. In addition to these goals, the vessel needed to be stored in an environment that had a stable temperature. This left the Ancient World with four main wine storage vessel solutions:


Kvevri (also translated as qvevri) originated in Georgia and were used there as early as 6000 BCE. Qvevris, being so large and cumbersome, and most often buried in the ground, were probably not used for transporting wine, although some historians would disagree. The clay vessels were also further strengthened with beeswax coated interiors and exterior wraps. Besides being the oldest wine storage vessel known to man, it’s also one of the few containers that was used in every stage of wine production from grape crushing to aging to long term storage. The process began when unfermented grapes, or wild grapes that grew naturally in the region were dumped into a kvevri stems and all. The vat could hold hundreds to thousands of liters of liquid depending on its size. The grapes were then crushed and the kvevri was further buried all the way underground to keep the wine at a steady temperature and secure fermentation. Once the period of primary fermentation was over, the kvevri was covered with a large stone to create an airtight seal. The kvevri was then left undisturbed for up to two years, allowing the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation and finish with aging. What came out was an earthenware-aged wine that would have tasted quite unlike any other liquid in the ancient world.

Amphora – Rome’s Most Standard Wine Containers

Amphorae were the ancient world’s primary method of transporting any valuable liquid, and as such they came in standard sizes. Ceramic vessels of this type can be dated back to the neolithic period. The jugs were used to transport wine, olive oil and other prized liquids. Amphorae came in many sizes, similar to both the bulk transport formats we use today as well as the world’s common wine bottle sizes. These beeswax-lined ceramic containers, invented by the Egyptians, were gradually adopted by nearly all wine drinking societies in the Mediterranean. They reached their peak usage (and standardization) in ancient Rome. These jugs were easy to produce and most importantly, easy to transport. Their cylindrical shape, tapered bottoms and sturdy handles made them easy to lift and transport. The long neck served four purposes: 1) it allowed for handles, 2) it reduced the surface area of wine that would be exposed to oxygen. 3) It provided sturdy structures for plugs, corks and other closures, and 4) it made pouring easy. The tapered bottom allowed sediment to collect and the amphora itself to be easily buried when cooler, long-term storage was required.

Museum exhibit showing amphora packed tight in pine fronds in an oared galley’s hold.

Amphora were made to fit into the skiffs and oared sea vessels. The handles eased the load of carrying them by hand. The amphora’s tapered bottom also proved useful in keeping its contents from being too disturbed by sea travel. Jostling was further mitigated by filling a ship’s hold with sand or tree branches and then packing the amphora tightly together inside. When the vessel is loaded with cargo and oarsmen, it would leak a little water and the moisture would swell the bilge material making it even more effective insulation. Later Roman Age vessels were often rated by the number of amphora they could carry. (Cic. ad Fam. XII.15Liv. XXI.63) and the produce of a vineyard was reckoned by the number of amphorae, or of culei (of twenty amphorae each), which it yielded.

Looking at an amphora you can see the similarities to a modern wine bottle, from the long neck, which keeps the wine away from oxygen, to the sediment-collecting concave bottom of most wine bottles called the ‘punt.’ The best wines were stored in the best of these ceramic containers which often had lovely decorations. To standardize these ceramic bottles, trade administrators in ancient Rome set aside the best proportioned amphora, called amphora Capitolina, in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, and it was in accordance with this model of perfection that all the empire’s jugs were fashioned.

Goatskin Bags and Animal Bladders

A waterskin is an Ancient Era receptacle used to hold water. Normally made of a sheep or cow bladder, it retains water naturally and therefore was very useful in desert crossings until the invention of the canteen. It is still used today in some developing nations. Though it may have been used over 5000 years ago by tribal peoples, the first pictures of it are from ancient Assyrians, who used the bladders as floats in 3000 B.C. It also was used by Romans for transporting water, wine and oils. On festival days large amounts of wine were moved about and this required goatskins sewn together to make a tun (usually on a two-wheeled wooden cart) and pitched as we previously described.

A large animal skin filled with wine

There were two major Roman festivals relating to wine production: the Vinalia prima (“first Vinalia”) held on April 23rd allowed ordinary men and women to sample the previous year’s vintage of ordinary wine in Venus’ name. At the same festival the Roman elite offered a generous libation of wine to Jupiter in the hopes of good weather for the next year’s crop.

Vinalia Rustica, held on August 19th was originally a rustic Latin harvest festival. It celebrated the grape harvest, and the growth and fertility of all garden crops. Its patron deity may have been Venus, or Jupiter, or both. To properly celebrate the occasions, urban feast planners found it necessary to transport wine from their cella vinaria to one place to another on the day. Such transport was invariably accomplished using goatskin bags. These vessels often resembled a goat with its appendages tied and well pitched over so as to make the seams perfectly tight. When a large quantity of wine was to be moved, the hides were sewed together, and the leather tun was created, usual atop a two wheeled cart, so wine could be carried from place to place.

Oak Barrels

As the Roman empire expanded in all directions they met and conquered numerous cultures possessing better technology. The Gauls who lived north and east of their domain transported their brew craft in wooden barrels, bound together with metal hoops. While the Celts are recognized as the inventors of the wooden barrel, historians agree it was through the Gauls that Rome first adopted them. In the stone carving below, we can see wine being transported in large wooden barrels with metal hoops. A single bargeman steers the boat towed by slaves. At the top of the piece are shown several styles of amphora, both wickered and smooth.

roman wine in barrels towed by slaves, amphora above
Roman wine in barrels in river barge towed by slaves, amphora above

Wooden barrels proved stronger than clay vessels, and they weighed far less for the volume shipped. Plus well made wooden barrels could be turned on their side and rolled. Oak was the wood of choice for wine barrels, even back then and over the following centuries wine lovers realized the positive effects that oak has on wine. Selecting this species of wood probably wasn’t so deliberate in the beginning though, the Roman’s choice of oak over other woods was likely more influenced by both the abundance of oak trees in Europe at the time, and the wood’s tight grain.

Glass Bottles

Roman glass was too fragile to be dependable for wine storage over long periods of time, but it was used on ceremonial occasions, and sometimes included in funerary rituals, and it was relatively common for wine to be served from glass pitchers.

Greco Roman wine serving vessels from Venice
The Speyer Wine Bottle

The Speyer wine bottle, on display at a museum in Speyer Germany proves the Romans did indeed use glass bottles to store wine. The vessel in question is a sealed 1.5-litre (51 US fl oz) glass vessel with amphora-like shoulders and dolphin-shaped handles. The glass bottle most likely holds wine, although its interior contents have never been tested. It was unearthed in a Roman tomb discovered nearby in 1867, but archaeologists date the vessel’s origins to between 325 and 350 AD and that makes this relic the oldest unopened bottle of wine in the world.

What is a Vinarium?

Articles by the historian William Ramsay, M.A., Professor of Humanity in the University of Glasgow attribute the word Vinarium to the Roman Age equipment used to separate sediment from the fermenting beverage in amphorae, and not the room in which the wine was stored. This author writes how sediment was removed “…simply by straining through small cup-like utensils of silver or bronze perforated with numerous small holes, and distinguished by the various names”.

Proper Wine Storage in Wine Cellars: Managing Temperature, Humidity, and Vibrations

Proper Wine Storage in Wine Cellars: Managing Temperature, Humidity, and Vibrations

Wine is perishable, so proper wine storage is critical to maintaining its delicate flavour and bouquet.

The manner in which wine is stored impacts the way it tastes when served.  Collectors have no control over how their wine was made, but after purchasing the product it’s up to them to treat the bottles properly and in ways that will increase their flavour and value. This post will explore our beliefs on proper wine cellar temperature, humidity, lighting, racking angles, and how to manage vibrations and ventilate your wine cellar. If you’re serious about drinking fine wines, then the act of storing and handling your best vintages is a serious exercise, and one that is both science and art.

wooden wine racks in glass door wine cellar Toronto

Wall mounted wooden wine racks, wine coolers, temperature and humidity controls, storage angles and decanters are just some of the equipment necessary to protect and perfectly age a high quality bottle of wine.

This detailed blog post will showcase Rosehill’s wine storage secrets and give insights into best practices for wine cellar maintenance.

What is the Best Temperature for a Wine Cellar?

thermometer in wine cellar, best temperature for storing wineMaintaining the optimal temperature and avoiding wild temperature swings are the two most critical exercises for proper wine storage. A stable and pervasive chill is what makes a good wine cellar.

Wine can be stored safely from 40° to 65°F (4° to 18°C). The optimal storage temperature depends on the wine’s age and how long it will be stored. If the bottle will be opened within a year or two, a warmer temperature of 60° to 65°F (15° to 18°C) will speed the development of bottle bouquet.

If your intention is to store the wine for longer term, cooler temperatures are desired. Quality white wines are usually consumed sooner than red wines but can benefit by cooler storage. In this case the esters, or fruity character, disappear more rapidly at warmer temperatures.

What Happens When Wine is Stored at Room Temperature?

Storage at room temperature at 70°F (21°C) or higher will cause undesirable changes in the wine as various reactions are accelerated in the bottle, but at different rates. The result is a lack of balance in the aging process. Even fluctuations of more than 5° to 10°F (2° to 4°C) are undesirable.

spoiled wine tastes like fruit stew , oxidized wine is vinegarWhen wine is stored at room temperature, or placed in attics where the temperature fluctuates, the sensitive and perishable liquid can suffer heat damage. Wine is cooking at 80°F. When uncorked, a cooked wine may smell like a fruit stew or slightly burned. Tasting cooked wine is an unpleasant experience as the finish is absolutely ruined.

When wine is too refrigerated, by contrast, it can also suffer. When stored in too-cold frigid temperatures the liquid is subject to “slow aging” which means it doesn’t mature or gain anything during the aging process. Wine stored below 50°F hardly ages at all – it’s still a ripe juice when uncorked, years later. Is there sedimentation in the bottle? Cellar managers that encounter particles in wine stored at lower temperatures could be seeing tartaric acid crystals in the liquid.

Improper Wine Storage in Attics, Storage Lockers and Shipping Containers

improper storage of wine will ruin the flavour and bouquetWine stored in garages and attics is quite often subject to excessive temperature fluctuations. Wine in bottles stacked upright in boxes, placed upright in the cardboard box in a garage can lose its seal. The temperature fluctuations can break the seal of the cork, thereby exposing the wine to air or cause a pressure differential, which pulls air into the bottle. Oxidation: wine exposed to excessive oxygen will age faster.

How to Maintain a Consistent Wine Cellar Temperature?

If you are just constructing a wine cellar there are plenty of things you can do to help keep the cellar cool in all seasons. During cellar construction, keep an eye on all places without insulation. There should be no gaps – just like insulating a house. Cellar owners minimize the potential “coolness” loss areas like windows and poorly insulated doors and ceilings. Top cellar owners concentrate on building a controlled environment for their prized wine collection.

If you have a wine cellar and are investigating its environment, simply put your hand on the walls and ceilings and feel for unseen heat sources. Restaurant wine cellars are notorious for also having computer servers or unseen ventilation ducts that either siphon the chill or vent hot air into the abode. Be on the lookout for air gaps or cracks in the wall or floor or ceiling too. If your wine cellar needs better cooling please view our selection of wine coolers with adjustable temperature controls, and wine cellar cooling units for full environmental control.

Regarding Wine Cellar Humidity, How to Control Moisture in Wine Cellar?

The way in which your wine is stored and handled has every bit as much to do with its taste as does the way it’s made. Preserving a proper stable storage environment for the liquid to age and become more deliciously complicated as it matures is the role of the wine cellar and manager.

Why Control Humidity in a Wine Cellar?

Although sometimes overlooked during the wine cellar-construction process, proper humidity is also very important. Humidity control prevents mold from forming (which happens naturally when a cellar is too humid) and protects the wooden corks in wine bottles from shrinking and drying out (which happens when the wine cellar is too dry).

black mold and white mold in a cellar basement, wine cellarMoisture leads to mold and mildew growth. The glass and stainless steel used in modern cellars tends to be more “sterile” and these soulless materials don’t allow for mold to grow, like the organic substances of stone or wood. Since wine absorbs the aromas in its environment, the presence of mold impacts the flavor through the cork.  Wine stored in cellars devoid of mold usually lack complexity. So, although many cellar managers believe it’s ideal to have mold growth within a wine cellar, it can be dangerous if it spreads into the walls of your home or restaurant business.

Moldy corks or even fungus-covered corks are not necessarily bad, as long as they still maintain the seal (but fungi-covered corks can become awkward talking points in wine cellar tours).

On the other hand corks that are too dry are deadly to wine. A deteriorated cork will lose its seal and this will lead to oxidation of the wine. When the seal is broken then oxygen will slowly leech into the bottle causing the conversion of the wine into its acidic form – vinegar. Wine that tastes bitter or like vinegar is usually the result of failed corking causing wine oxidation. (Tip to winemakers: screw-cap bottle closures do not require humidity in the wine cellar.)

How To Measure Humidity in a Wine Cellar

program humidity meter, hygrometer in wine cellarRelative Humidity (RH) is the percentage of vapor in the air at a given temperature. Storage humidity levels should ideally stay between 50% to 70%, not much higher, nor lower. When it’s too high, mold can form and bottle labels will be ruined. Excessive humidity does not affect the wine, however.

TIP: Wine bottles should be stored on their side to allow the wine to keep the cork wet, and this contact will discourage the cork from drying out should humidity conditions not be ideal. The ideal storage angle is another factor we’ll discuss later in this article.

Four Factors That Affect Wine Cellar Humidity

Three of the four factors that affect wine cellar humidity are beyond the control of the cellar manager:

  1. Geography
  2. Climate
  3. Season
  4. How well your cellar is constructed and insulated (vapor-barriers, ceiling insulation, etc.)

Rosehill offers advice on humidity gauges and humidification systems. Contact us if you have further questions – our experts will help you.

Regarding Wine Cellar Lights, How Dark Should A Wine Cellar Be?

glassblowers in Maine 1890 making dark coloured wine bottlesEver since humans discovered glass making, and started putting wine in bottles, artisans have known that dark colored glass bottles help shield wine from sunlight, and wine tastes better when stored in dark glass away from the sun.  Glasshouses in the late 1800s prized their dark glass bottles for wine and spirits, as contrasted to the clarity of clear glass bottles for compound medicines and cobalt blue bottles for poisons.

It wasn’t until later in the 19th century that scientists and winemakers understood ultraviolet light, and its destructive properties, and only after more experimentation was it revealed that ultraviolet light can penetrate even dark-colored glass! Wine cellars became even more important from that moment on as storing wine in dark conditions is essential to keep this perishable liquid from spoiling.

Ultraviolet light can cause oxidization of the tannins, causing an unpleasant aroma, ruining the wine. Sparkling wines are even more sensitive to light (all spectrums) and should be given extra care when stored in wine cellars with lots of foot traffic and fingers on the light switches. Delicate, light-bodied white wines run the greatest risk from light exposure and are often packaged in darkly tinted wine bottles that offer some protection from bright light. Wines packaged in clear, light green and blue colored bottles are the most vulnerable to light and may need extra precautions for storage.

soth facing stone cellar window sunlightFor example, the Champagne house of Louis Roederer uses cellophane wrap to protect its premium cuvee Cristal from light, the wine being packaged in a clear bottle. In the cellar, wines are stored in corrugated boxes or wooden crates to protect the wines from direct light.

Buy a light timer. Whenever possible, put your cellar lights on a timer. If you ever forget to turn off the lights in your wine cellar, the timer will do it for you, keeping your wine safe. Also, when it comes to selecting the best lighting fixtures, top cellars utilize low-wattage surface-mounted lighting to minimize additional heat in the room and avoid any cool loss that may occur with holes for pot lights. LED lights come in a variety of shapes and configurations and can be made to look incredible in any space. While pot lights on a dimmer switch may seem like a good decorative idea, and one that is imminently functional, the pots are never insulated well enough and thus are not recommended for wine cellars. It should also be noted that low-wattage, non-heat emitting lights (LEDs) are better for wine storage than fluorescent lighting (see below).

Why you should never have fluorescent lights in your wine cellar?

no not put flourescent lights in wine cellarFluorescent lighting emits significant amounts of ultraviolet light, which negatively impact wines on a photo-chemical level.  UV light can age wine prematurely.  Sunlight, fluorescent lights, and even some tungsten filament incandescent lighting can adversely react with phenolic compounds in wine and create “wine faults”.  A wine fault is an unpleasant characteristic of a wine often resulting from poor wine making practices or storage conditions that leads to wine spoilage. Many of the elements that cause wine faults are already naturally present in wine, but at insufficient concentrations to be of issue in most bottles.

Glass wine cellars are hard to shield from bright lights. While modern glass wine cellars are lovely to behold, and offer guests and dining patrons much to contemplate while tasting wine, our wine cellar-design preference is to have no glass in the structure at all.  If you read Rosehill wine cellar design page you will notice we shy away from using glass either in the wine cellar or on cabinet doors because of its poor thermal and photosensitive properties. We love our various designer clients, but they can sometimes use glass to a point beyond all practicality when it comes appropriate wine storage.  Something to think about …

Wine Cellar Racking: What’s the Best Angle for Wine Cellar Bottle Racks?

wine corks in glass bowl at Rosehill Wine Cellar showroom in EtobicokeWine corks are typically made from the bark of cork oak trees. The cork oak (Quercus suber) is native to the Mediterranean region, which is where most of the world’s cork supply is obtained. Because of its impermeability, buoyancy, elasticity, and fire resistance, it is used in a variety of products, the most common of which is wine bottle stoppers.

After about ten years in a wine bottle, a wooden cork can sometimes deteriorate; the rate of deterioration seems to be affected by ambient storage temperature and humidity of the air. Warmer and excessively humid storage environments cause growth of molds, which attack both the cork and the label. Insufficient humidity may cause the cork to dry and crumble, in which case it should be replaced. So what should you do to prevent either of these unfortunate scenarios? Store your wine at a proper angle.

Why should most wine bottles be stored laying flat on their sides?

When wine is stored on its side, the cork remains wet. When wet, the transmission of air through the cork into the wine is minimized. When bottles are stored upright, the cork eventually dries out and oxygen in the air causes chemical changes in the wine, spoiling it. In addition, the cork may work loose due to pressure changes and cause leakage or exposure to air.

Fortified wines should be stored standing up.  Sparkling wines—which have about 70 to 90 pounds of pressure per square inch in a sealed bottle because of all that carbon dioxide—are naturally more humid inside, and the cork will not dry out as fast, if ever. Madeira is a long-lived fortified wine that’s basically oxidized already, so there is less concern about it getting further oxidized … but there’s an exception to this rule, and that exception concerns port. Bottles of port should be stored on their side.

Wine Cellars from RosehillView our wooden wine racks with several configurations of side-angled bottle holders (which also help reduce vibration) for longer term storage options.

Since we began this section by discussing wooden corks, we should conclude our discussion with a brief mention of plastic corks. Generally speaking, plastic corks work just fine and some people feel they provide a better seal – plastic corks don’t deteriorate. However, if you want notes from the cellar in the bottle you need wood. With plastic corks you still want to be concerned with the other wine storage factors we’ve touched in this series: light, temperature, etc., but with plastic corks humidity becomes less of an issue.  And of course, there is a certain time-honoured romance and Epicurean tradition, which seems absent with plastic corks and screw top bottles. What do you think?

How to Manage Vibrations and Micro Vibrations in Wine Cellar?

garbage truck in urban alley vibrations above restaurant wine cellarHow do the constant vibrations from a nearby roadway (streetcar!) and the micro vibrations from nearby cooling systems affect wine making and proper wine storage? They can shake, rattle and roll the body out of the wine.  Constant vibrations in your wine cellar will disturb the slow process of biochemical evolution in wine and this is often fatal to finer crus.

Common mistakes include storing wine on wooden floors, which vibrate with human foot traffic. Or storing wine in basement cellars that are near or share an exterior wall with a garbage-bin pickup-point outside.  Urban restaurants with basement wine cellars struggle with these man-made quakes; modern garbage trucks are massive and they make significant tremors up and down every nearby building when they shake the garbage of the bins, which is three times a week in most cities across North America.

How to Protect Wine Cellar from Micro Vibrations?

scrap wood cuts at Rosehill wine cellar shopWall anchored wooden racks are typically the best option for long term storage as wood dampens small vibrations, and wall anchoring helps to eliminate any sway in the racks.  Woods like beech, redwood, maple and mahogany are best choices for wine cellar racks because they respond well to the cool, moist environment of an Ontario cellar and these woods do not impart any negative odor that may be absorbed into the bottle as the wine ages

All Heart California redwood wine racking in a custom cellar built by Rosehill Wine Cellars.

View our selection of wood wine racks for wine cellars and open area storage points. These wooden racks have smooth radius edge which helps prevent vintage label tearing or damage.  Below is a glace at the scrap wood pile – six or eight different species of wood are frequently used at Rosehill as we customize the racks to every environment and decor.

Plan Out Proper Ventilation for Wine Cellar Before Construction

Proper ventilation is critical for long-term wine storage as it allows for sufficient air-flow to help eliminate odor build-up, or mold, which can harm wine bottle corks and labels (*although some winemakers like moldy cellars as they believe the earthy storage environment can positively impact the wine).  The moldy cellar is sure to negatively impact the house or commercial building that accommodates the wine cellar.

During the wine cellar design phase, and wine cellar construction it is important to include an adequate method of ventilation and air-flow.  Premium quality wine cellar cooling units offered by Rosehill are designed to provide optimal filtration and ventilation solutions for cellars of varying sizes.


Spoiled Wine and the Misunderstood Wine Cellar

Spoiled Wine and the Misunderstood Wine Cellar

Wine cellars from Rosehill Wine Cellars

It’s rarely the wine cellar’s fault, when wine spoils, if you have relied on professionals for construction and lighting.

A custom wine cellar built by experts who specialize in creating the ideal wine environment is often mistaken as being faulty. After all, the purpose of having a wine cellar is to protect and preserve wine so that it can be enjoyed at the point of optimal maturity. Questions arise when a clear percentage of the wine from a cellar is discovered to have gone bad. It’s only natural to wonder if the wine cooling unit or other components of the wine cellar failed, resulting in spoiled wine. The blame for bad wine very rarely lies in the construction or maintenance of a wine cellar, however. Across the wine industry and in wine collections everywhere, it can be expected that about 5% to 10% of the wine will turn out to be undrinkable. This is why waiters at restaurants allow diners to taste their wine and give their approval or send the bottle back. There are four basic reasons that wine goes bad, and they are that the wine is: Oxidized, corked, refermented, or cooked.


Just as air affects a cut apple, turning it brown, too much air has an undesirable effect on wine. One of the reasons corks are ideal for sealing bottles of wine is that the natural material allows in miniscule amounts of oxygen during sometimes years of storage. Wines become oxidized if too much air gets in. For instance, if a cork dries out, which can occur as a direct result of how and where the wine is stored, oxidation ruins the wine. If you have a professionally built wine cellar and use wine racks as recommended by experts, you can typically avoid having any dried out corks.


When a fungal compound called 2,4,6-trichloranisole (TCA), also known as cork taint, gets into cork, a musty odor is imparted into the wine. You can recognize corked wine when the bottle is opened and you smell the contents. The sniffing notes are described as smelling of moldy cardboard, dirty socks that have been left too long in the hamper, or musty basement. TCA is usually caused by problems in the environment of wineries, such as antifungal treatments and moldy cellars.


When yeast and sugar are still in fermented wine, the wine will literally begin fermenting in the bottle again. This causes the wine to be off-flavored and a wee bit bubbly. Spritz is desirable in champagne but not in fine still wine.


When wine has been exposed to excessive heat, such as in bad storage, it becomes baked or maderized. It will literally taste like Madeira, with flavors of candied fruits and almonds. You can sometimes spot cooked wine before opening it because the cork will usually push partly out of the neck, due to expansion.

While it’s true that a faulty wine cellar can be the cause of cooked or oxidized wine, having the guidance of professionals like those at Rosehill Wine Cellars can ensure that it doesn’t happen to you. It’s usually a safe bet that spoiled wine is not the wine cellar’s fault.


What Information can you learn from a Wine Label?

What Information can you learn from a Wine Label?

There’s a lot of information available on a wine label. Reading a wine label properly can tell you exactly what you can expect from your wine before you buy it. Therefore, learning how to decipher the clues hidden in your wine label is an important skill for any wine lover. Of course, labels can look very different depending on what country your wine is from. Nevertheless, there are a few basic things that should be available on every wine label. Several different wine bottles with different labels.

The Producer and the Region

Locating the producer of the wine might be difficult. However, it should always be on the label. If it’s not obvious it will likely be in small print near the bottom of the label. Knowing the producer is good because if you like the wine it will be an easy way to collect more of the same, or branch out and try something knew from the same producer.

The region should also be easy to locate. If the region is broad the wine will likely be less expensive. The more specific the region is the higher the quality of the wine is likely to be. For example, the grapes might be sourced from a wide-ranging area or from a specific vineyard which would usually make it more exclusive and carefully crafted. This is a great indicator of quality.

The Grape Varietal

This is clearly key information. Some wines will be single varietal, meaning they are made from one type of grape, while others are blends of several different grape types. For example, one popular blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Sometimes labels will not reveal the type of grape used in making the wine. In these cases, the label will have an Appellation. If you search the specific Appellation listed on the label you can usually find the grape that was used to make the wine.

Alcohol Level

Checking the alcohol level of your wine is very important. How high the alcohol level is indicates how ripe the grapes were before they were harvested. Wines with high alcohol levels will tend to have a fuller body and less acid. By contrast, wines with less alcohol will tend to have higher acidity levels. Alcohol can also indicate sweetness. Generally speaking the more alcohol a wine has the dryer it’s going to be. If a wine has low levels of alcohol it’ll be sweeter.

The Vintage

Some vintages (years) are better than others for making wine. Therefore, if you do your research and learn which vintages are best for which regions picking the best wine will be a lot easier. If a wine doesn’t have a vintage it means it’s a blend from several different years. This usually means the wine is lower in value because it’s easier to control the flavour if you have grapes from several different years.

Happy hunting wine lovers!

Make sure to check out Rosehill Wine Cellars for all of your wine storage and wine drinking needs!

Wine & the Amethyst: Not just a paperweight!

Ever wondered why the amethyst is often found in wine cellars?

Considered a stone of friendship, amethyst is said to protect its wearer against seduction and evil spirits, as well as enhancing clarity of the mind.

The violet and purple varieties of quartz provide the most prized, and in many respects, the most interesting of the large family of quartz minerals. Amethyst, the name by which this variety of quartz is known, is of ancient derivation.

Pliny stated that the gem was so-called from the color being near to, but not quite, reaching that of wine.

The name is also said to have derived from the Greek word ‘Amenthustos’, which is translated as ‘not drunken’ and was given to the stone from the curious belief that a wearer would not suffer from excess consumption of alcoholic liquors. (Gullible Greeks!)

A pretty legend in regard to the amethyst has been happily treated in French verse.

Bacchus DionysusThe god Bacchus (Roman name for Dionysus), offended at some neglect that he had suffered, was determined to avenge himself. He declared that the first person he should meet when he and his train passed along should be devoured by his tigers.

Fate willed that this luckless mortal was a beautiful and fair maiden named Amethyst, who was on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana.

As the ferocious beasts sprang towards her, she sought the protection of the goddess, and was saved from a worse fate by being turned into a pure white stone.

Recognizing the miracle and repenting of his cruelty, Bacchus poured the juice of the grape as a libation over the petrified body of the maiden, thus giving the stone the beautiful violet hue that so charms the beholder’s eye.

Today, it is common to come across amethyst colored goblets and tinted wine glasses. Let the brilliance of your wine shine through using crystal stemware.

For further information about the amethyst:  The Mythology of the Amethyst