What to do if your wine collection is flooded

What to do if your wine collection is flooded

Floods are disruptive and upsetting. Of course, the priority is to secure the integrity and safety of the home - but if you do have a valuable wine collection that's been flooded, you can do a lot to minimise damage and loss of value in the early stages.

We see a lot of flood-affected wine collections that have been more damaged by the aftermath than the original event. 

THE GOLDEN RULE: Never use a heater or dehumidifier while the wine is still in the cellar. The raised temperature cooks and oxidises the wine, causing 'pushed corks', leakage, and increased ullage. These all lead to premature ageing and even oxidation.

  • If you can get to them safely, remove any bottles or cases you can reach.
  • Get the water pumped out. Take it steady. Cardboard cases will collapse, so keep an eye out, and rescue any bottles that are in danger of toppling and smashing.
  • If any labels are peeling off, you can try just sticking them back down. Don't add glue - just use any latent stickiness on the label.
  • If labels have come off and are floating around, dry them flat, and keep them somewhere safe.
  • Gently dry the bottles, but don't try to scrub away all mud or dirt. You can always wipe off the dust at a later date. Better a stained label than a wiped off label.
  • Transfer the bottles to a cool environment, of stable temperature around 13 degrees Celsius. Keep bottles away from sunlight and bright light. Ideally they should be transferred to conditions similar to those in which they previously lived.
  • It is preferable to store bottles lying on their side, especially if the salvage and restoration of the original cellar will take some time.
  • If the wine collection includes original wooden cases, these should not be opened unless you think that water has got in. The wood is surprisingly good at absorbing water and preserving the bottles. Let these dry out naturally. 
  • For high value wine collections, a portable storage container may need to be hired. It should have temperature control, and a temperature recorder. Temporary third-party specialist wine storage may also be an option.
  • While a flood damages outside of a wine bottle, it does not affect the drinkability of the wine inside. 
  • Stained, torn or partially legible labels reduce the resale value of collectable wines, and this can be quantified following an up to date valuation.

For high value collections, or for those that may be under-insured, an onsite inventory and inspection is usually required. For smaller wine collections, and those in which there are no issues with the level of insurance, it is common to base a valuation, and the estimate of the loss of value, on information and photographs provided by the insured.

With thanks to Sarah Abbott at Swirl Wine Events  Wine Consultancy

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