Effect of Vibration

Vibration is another, oft overlooked, enemy of wine. As red wine ages, it is common for the wine to “throw sediment”, a natural aging process which physically separates solids, principally tannic acid, from the wine. Collectors will often try to introduce as little movement as possible into the aging equation, for fear of re-integrating sediments back into the wine.

On a larger scale, vibration introduces kinetic energy into the wine, which is the opposite of what you are seeking to achieve. Think back to chemistry class, and recall that many reactions are expedited by stirring. The same principle holds true for wine naturally maturing through chemical change.  A vibration prone environment will, in relative terms, cause wine to mature more rapidly.

A 2008 study has found that even low levels of constant vibration detrimentally alters the chemical composition of wine in as little as 18 months. In 2011, wine writer, researcher, and educator, Maria Lorraine Binchet summarized the 2008 study as follows:

“The organoleptic information is there, just cloaked in chemical terms. The effect of vibration on wine is that it kills flavors and aromas. From the abstract:

Decreased Tartaric Acid = the primary acid in grapes, responsible for the
taste, feel and color of a wine. Decreased tartaric acid means the wine tastes and feels less like wine.

Decreased Succinic Acid = reacts with other molecules to form esters, the defining flavor components of wine. A big effect.

Decreased esters = decreased flavor.

Increased Refractive Index = the wine becomes sweeter [yet loses overall flavor].

Increased Propanol = decrease in aromas, increase in smell of cooked potatoes. "High concentrations of propanol are probably an indication of inferior wine
[Fleet, 1993].

Increased Isoamyl Alcohol = tendency to form acetone/acetates; smells of fusel, whiskey, banana popsicle. Indicates the wine has degraded.” ...


The abstract can be found here.

Well stored wine is in a static cool, dark, vibration free environment by design. This environment slows the chemical aging process. Slow aging allows a fine wine to develop aroma and complexity of flavor. This is a process that can take years to achieve. Long term exposure vibration (and/or heat and light) will result in degradation, undermining efforts to facilitate proper long term aging.

Unless you are inclined to ignore science, avoid storage near vibration. Remember that just because you don't feel it, does not mean it is not there. Humans can detect vibration only at certain frequencies.

If you are thinking about using a
wine storage facility, first and foremost ascertain if it is near a rail system, as urban Metrorail systems are among the most notorious offenders. The Paris, France system has been causing problems for years. Washington, DC’s, Metrorail vibration attenuation system recently failed, "potentially affecting surrounding buildings and structures". These systems will be replaced over the next ten years, subject to funding. In the interim, vibration levels at some buildings near DC’s Van Ness station actually exceed the highest levels studied in the analysis mentioned above.

Trolleys, trains, pumps, washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and stereo equipment are also on the list. Wooden storage systems are preferable to metal, as metal carries vibrations more efficiently. Necessary equipment in the vicinity of stored wines, including wine
storage units which utilize compressors, should be equipped with dampers to minimize or eliminate vibration.

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