The 6 Tenets for Proper Wine Storage [How to Store Wine]
There are many myths surrounding correct wine storage and I'm here to debunk them all!
In this guide, I'll explain how to store wine so that it remains in great condition until you decide to drink it.
Why Storing Wine Correctly is So Important
Wine is a living entity, a delicate blend of flavors and aromas that evolves over time. Proper storage is the key to maintaining this evolution in a way that enhances the wine's complexity and depth. Conversely, improper storage can lead to a multitude of issues that can degrade the wine's quality.
Wine has a few enemies that we must avoid exposure to if we want to drink it at its best. Temperature, light, vibration, humidity, odors, and bottle positioning all need to be controlled if you want your wine to remain in good condition.
But don't worry it's not as complicated as it might sound!
In this guide, I'll outline the steps you need to take to ensure your wine is stored properly so that when it comes to opening there are no nasty surprises.
The 6 Essential Rules for Successful Wine Storage
If you want to experience your wine at its best you need to provide it with the right environment in which to age. Here's how you can do that.
6. Maintain a Horizontal Position
A wine cork can be a bit of a weak link when it comes to storing wine for long periods. By design, it allows the tiniest amount of oxygen to seep through and oxidize the wine. This is how (some) wine develops in the bottle over time.
However, its porous nature also means it can be a bit of a liability as we'll find out.
An unopened wine bottle in long-term storage must be stored on its side. This is to ensure the cork remains moist and doesn't dry out and crack. Should the cork become too dry then its seal will become compromised. This will lead to too much oxygen leeching into the wine and aging it prematurely.
Should you have an open bottle of wine, then you should store it upright. This is to limit the surface area of wine that is in contact with air (oxygen).
5. Maintain the Right Temperature
Heat is probably the most potent enemy of wine. When wine gets too hot, the delicate chemical composition that gives it its flavor, aroma, and structure can be damaged beyond repair.
You'll notice those fruit flavors lose their vibrancy and become "stewed". Wine becomes dull, flat, bland, and just boring.
Likewise, exposing wine to really cold temperatures can have damaging effects on its composition too.
So, what temperature range is ideal for storing wine?
The ideal storage temperature for all wine is between 53 °F - 57 °F. That goes for red, white, rosé, sparkling, dessert, and fortified wine!
When it comes to serving temperatures things get a bit more complicated but for storing wine just aim for 55 °F or 13°C. You certainly don't want to test your wines at temperatures over 68 °F (20°C).
4. Keep it Dark
Sunlight is also really bad news for wine. It's the ultraviolet light that's particularly damaging as it can cause photochemical reactions in wine, leading to the development of "wine faults". These are undesirable characteristics that can affect the taste, smell, structure, and appearance of the wine.
Sunlight can also cause temperature fluctuations, which can negatively affect the aging process and the overall quality of the wine.
Therefore, to preserve the quality and longevity of wine, it is recommended to store it in a dark place away from UV light.
3. No Such Thing as a Good Vibration with Wine
Vibrations can be harmful to wine for a couple of reasons. The first is the disturbance of sediment. Wines, especially red wines, often have a certain amount of sediment in them.
This sediment is usually harmless and settles at the bottom of the bottle. However, vibrations can disturb this sediment and mix it back into the wine, which can affect the clarity and taste of the wine.
The second more significant issue with vibrations is the energy they bring. When a bottle experiences vibrations, it increases the kinetic energy within the bottle and therefore the potential for chemical reactions to take place. Complex chemical reactions are not something we want happening inside a wine bottle and here's why.
A 2008 study on the effects of vibration on red wine found that vibration causes changes in the balance of acids and decreases tannins.
The total acidity was found to decrease with the amounts of succinic and tartaric acids decreasing most significantly. This leads to fewer esters present in the wine. Esters are the organic acids in wine that produce fruit flavors and aromas and losing them is terrible news!
In conclusion, they state "From this 18-month storage study with the presence of vibration, it was found that the evolution of the wine could be substantially accelerated by the vibration, and thus the changes in physico-chemical properties became more significant at higher vibration levels."
So, if you store your wine near a source of vibration like a washing machine consider getting some vibration dampers to protect your wine.
2. Don't Ignore Humidity
Humidity plays a significant role in wine storage and again it's all about the pesky cork.
If the humidity is too low, the cork in the wine bottle can dry out, allowing air to enter the bottle and oxidize the wine, which can spoil it.
On the other hand, if the humidity is too high, it can promote the growth of mold and mildew, which can damage the labels and potentially affect the wine itself.
The ideal humidity level for wine storage is considered to be around 70%. This level of humidity helps to keep the cork in good condition without promoting mold growth.
Besides, keeping humidity in check the other key method of keeping mold away is ventilation.
Mold needs an accumulation of moisture to occur. You can stop that from happening by keeping your wine storage area well ventilated (and the humidity under control).
Good wine refrigerators have interior fans to help with this. They also have carbon filters that can remove some of the moisture (and odors) from the air.
1. Avoid Strong Odors
Strong odors in the air can permeate the porous cork and eventually reach the wine inside. This can affect the flavor of wine if it's allowed to happen continuously over a long period of time.
Strong odors could be anything from kitchen smells from cooking to chemical smells from cleaning.
Reliable wine refrigerators have carbon filters in the interior to combat this problem. Carbon is very effective at absorbing odors and shielding your wine from infiltration.
The Best Places to Store Wine
So, in conclusion, we need a wine storage solution that meets the following criteria.
These are the 6 tenets of good wine storage:
- 1Always store wine bottles horizontally.
- 2Maintain a consistent temperature of around 55 °F (13°C).
- 3Avoid sunlight. Dark is best.
- 4Avoid vibrations.
- 5Avoid overly humid environments. Aim for 70% humidity.
- 6Avoid strong odors.
So, what does that leave us with?
If you don't have the luxury of a wine cellar (who does?) then a specialized wine refrigerator is your next best bet.
It will comfortably tick all the boxes when it comes to how to store wine properly.
Failing that, the best rooms in your house for storing wine are the basement, the garage, or a kitchen pantry.
You might want to get a wine rack to hold them in place on their sides and you'll need to watch temperature fluctuations depending on where you live.
Common Misconceptions About Wine Storage
There are a few myths about proper wine storage that need to be debunked. Just because supermarket wine is stored upright doesn't mean you should do the same.
- Wines should be stored at room temperature: The truth is everyone seems to have a different opinion on what room temperature actually is and it's often way too warm for wine. It's best to stick with a number and that number is 55°F (13°C). But anything within 10°F higher or lower is fine too.
- Wine fridges are unnecessary: While not everyone needs a wine fridge, they do provide the ideal storage conditions for wine, especially if you don't have a cool, dark, and stable environment elsewhere in your home. If you intend on keeping expensive wine then a wine fridge is probably an essential purchase.
- All wines improve with age: Not all wines are designed to age. In fact, most wines are meant to be consumed within a few years of production. Only a small percentage of wines (around 1%) are built for long-term aging. So read up on any wine you purchase or plan on purchase. Check reviews from critics and vintage charts for a deeper understanding.
- Wine should be stored standing up just like in the wine store: This is true for wines with screw caps or synthetic corks. However, for wines with natural corks, it's best to store them on their sides to keep the cork moist and prevent it from drying out and letting air into the bottle. The wine you see in wine stores or in the supermarket doesn't tend to stay there for long so they get away with storing it upright.