The Basics of Proper Wine Storage
Wine is one of the oldest drinks known to the world. With a tradition as rich as the ancient Greeks and Romans, consuming wine has evolved as a beverage with its own culture and beliefs, eerily reminiscent of modern religions.
For all the connoisseurs that know and understand the basics of wine storage, there are many who only buy wine on occasion without a thought to proper storage.
Keeping wine in a wine cooler or wine cellar is essential because it is a perishable drink. Storing wine properly makes the drink last much longer, and ensures satisfactory results when you're finally ready to enjoy a bottle.
While choosing a wine cooler or learning about the different wine cellars available can be an engaging task, there are some basics that can make it much easier. Following are some of the most important things to know about storing wine, whether you're looking to install a full wine cellar, pick up a wine refrigerator, or preserve that nice bottle of red that your friend gave you.
Temperature is one of the most important factors of storing wine. In fact, when storing wine for an extended period of time - really anything longer than one year - it is best to invest in a wine refrigerator or wine cooler.
An underground wine cellar, while fun to show off, just does not get cool enough and fails to keep the temperature at the constant level necessary for proper aging.
There are several important temperature keys to keep in mind for the best wine storage:
- Keep the temperature below 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) at all times. At 75 degrees, the wine begins to oxidize, so it's important to keep it below this level.
- The ideal temperature for storing a multi-wine collection is 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12.2 Celsius). Below 54 degrees slows the aging process, but won't hurt the wine, provided the temperature is consistant.
- Keep the temperature as steady as possible. When you're forced to change the temperature, do so gradually to minimize any risk. Raising a wine's temperature forces wine through the cork, while lowering the temperature forces air back into the bottle. Ongoing temperature change can result in premature aging and overbreathing.
- A good rule of thumb for wine storage is to not change the temperature of your storage area more than 3 degrees a day, and no more than 5 degrees a year. This is especially important for red wines, as they can suffer more from temperature change than their white counterparts.
Be wary of direct sunlight and fluorescent lights. Wine is affected by light, so when storing it keep it in a cool, dark place. Sunlight can lead to an unpleasant smell It can actually ruin your wine. While this is particularly important for white wine storage, red wines - contained in darker bottles - have some additional protection, but can still be ruined by exposure to light.
If you can't keep your wines away from light, wrap them in a soft cloth. Keep them lightly wrapped to allow the wine to breathe. You can put together a makeshift wine cooler made from a box if need be. The important thing is to shield the wine from light.
Store it on its side
There's a reason coolers are designed so that all the bottles sit on their sides. Storing the wine bottle on their side keeps it in contact with the cork. This is important because it keeps the cork from drying out. A dry cork can eventually contract and crack, allowing air to seep into the bottle and intermix with the wine.
Added oxygen will mix with the drink and spoil the wine. You also want to store wine with the label side facing up. This allows you to easily spot any sediments that might be forming in the wine.
Sediments develop over time, regardless of your wine storage techniques, so it's worthwhile to keep an eye out for any potential problems.
If at all possible, do not move the wine while it's in storage. Store your wine in a cellar or cabinet in which individual bottles are easy to access. You don't want to disturb resting bottles. Even the smallest of vibrations can affect your wine.
Keep the humidity in your wine storage area at a constant 70 percent humidity. A higher humidity level keeps the cork from drying out and minimizes evaporation of the wine; however, a humidity level that's too high can cause mold to grow and wine labels to fall off over over time. If you're starting a serious wine collection, you might want to purchase a hygrometer, which will gauge the humidity level in real time.
If at all possible, wine bottles should be stored away from other perishable food and drink. Wine breathes, so it is important you don't store it with anything that has a strong smell. Odors can sneak into the cork and bottle, subsequently taint and even spoil the wine.
This is where knowing your wines and varietals is important, as different types have different recommendations for proper aging. And not all wines actually improve over time. New World inexpensive wines, like the kind you'd normally find at your local grocery store will not improve at all through age, so they're meant to be consumeed soon after purchase.
- Red wines: These wines can age from 2 to 10 years before they're properly mature. The exact amount of time varies based on the type of wine and its balance of sugar, tannins and acid content.
- White wines: White wines don't take as long to mature, and many can be properly aged after only 2 or 3 years. Again, it depends on the variety in question. For example, some white burgundies like chardonnay can age for more than 20 years without reaching proper maturity.