The wait is over and your wine has finally arrived. Do you put it in a cellar? Wine fridge? Closet? It turns out that storing wine is surprisingly tricky. Keep reading to learn how to properly store your wine!
Maybe you just keep a bottle or two around for special occasions. Perhaps you’re a full-on wine collector and have an extensive collection. Whatever the case, there’s definitely a right and wrong way to store wine. While there are differences between “storing” and “cellaring” wine, both methods aim to preserve the overall flavor for as long as possible.
Even wines that are designed to age for long periods of time will eventually become oxygenated and degrade. When properly stored, however, these wines can age as they were meant to and become more delicious with time. Keep reading to learn how to properly store your wine and preserve all its delicious flavor and aroma.
Why is Wine Storage Important?
Even after you bring that bottle of wine home, its flavor still has the potential to change. That’s because the compounds that dictate its flavor and aroma are very reactive to oxygen.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s why I keep it corked until I’m ready to drink it…duh.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the way it works. Corks are small, porous pieces of wood used to seal bottles of wine. However, while that seal is water-tight, it’s not air-tight. And that’s a good thing!
Oxygen plays a major role when it comes to aging wine. The porous quality of corks allows a tiny amount of air to move in and out of the bottle. This helps the flavor and aroma molecules mature and develop more complexity over time. But what does this have to do with storing wine?
Surprisingly, a lot.
For example, wine sealed with a cork should always be stored on its side to keep the cork from drying out. If the cork were to become too dry, it could change shape and let too much air into the bottle. That would cause the wine to age prematurely and the cork could actually crumble as you attempt to remove it. You might see liquor stores with upright bottles, but that’s only because they know those bottles won’t be on the shelf for very long.
Are All Wines Stored The Same Way?
Yes and no. Let us explain.
First, not all wine is designed to be stored long-term. If a wine is meant to be enjoyed while it’s relatively young, long-term storage is unnecessary. However, if you don’t plan to drink it for several months, it’s probably still a good idea to store it on its side in a dry, dark area out of direct sunlight.
If you’re a wine collector and have a particularly expensive bottle that’s meant to age for several years, you’ll definitely want to invest in storage options. That brings us to another important topic–storing versus cellaring.
A wine cellar is used to store wine bottles or barrels for long periods of time (sometimes many years). Obviously, this is a better option for wines that need to age or for someone with a large collection. Wine cellars don’t have to be large, but they should provide consistent temperature and humidity. Some high-end restaurants will have multiple cellars: the main cellar for long-term storage, an intermediary cellar, and then a “service cellar” where the wine is brought to its optimal serving temperature.
Luckily, if you’re not running a restaurant or collecting wine, following a few simple storage tips will keep both young and mature bottles delicious for as long as possible.
Don’t Store Wine in an Upright Position
We’ve pretty much covered this one already, but it bears repeating. You can probably get away with storing a bottle of wine upright for a week. Any longer than that, however, can be problematic. Remember, you do not want that cork to dry out.
But what about screwcaps? If a metal cap doesn’t let any oxygen through, is it still important to store the bottle on its side?
Honestly, we wouldn’t risk it. There are newer screw caps designed to allow strategic levels of “oxygen ingress.” That means even the metal screw cap on your wine might allow a certain amount of necessary oxygen to pass through. Not all of them are designed that way, but we wouldn’t risk the flavor of our wine on that chance.
Avoid Direct Sunlight and Store Wine Somewhere Dry and Dark
Avoiding sunlight is necessary if you want to keep your wine from becoming “lightstruck.” There are certain amino acids in wine that contain sulfur, and if they’re exposed to too much light (even fluorescent light) they can oxidize. This changes the overall flavor and gives it an undesirable smell.
Clear bottles obviously provide less light protection, so white wine in clear bottles is particularly susceptible to this type of damage. To stop this from happening, make sure you store all wine somewhere dark and dry. If you have to, keep it inside a box or keep it covered with cloth. Just make sure your efforts to avoid light aren’t insulating the wine too much. Speaking of which…
Store Wine Somewhere With Consistent Temperature and Humidity
Temperature is another factor that can influence various flavors and aromatic compounds in your wine. And we’re not just talking about whether to chill, or not to chill your wine before serving.
Whether you’re storing wine for a week or for several years, keeping it somewhere with a consistent temperature and humidity is important. Somewhere between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit will help maintain flavor and aroma. Just make sure it never gets above 70 degrees, otherwise, you run the risk of spoiling your wine.
Tip: Even if you intend to serve your wine chilled, it shouldn’t be refrigerated long-term. Click here to learn more about how to properly chill wine before serving.
Depending on where you live, humidity can be tricky. Ideally, humidity levels should be somewhere around 70%. This keeps the environment humid enough to stop corks from drying out, but not so humid that it promotes mold growth. Hygrometers (tools that measure humidity) are usually available at local hardware stores and can help you monitor humidity.
Whatever you do, just aim for a consistent environment. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity aren’t good for any wine.
Properly Store Your Wine To Maintain Flavor and Aroma
Once you figure out the perfect spot to store your wine, you’ll never look back. It’s shocking what a difference it makes.
However, we’re not here to shame anyone for their wine habits. If you love your chardonnay on the warm side, go for it! Do you prefer your reds with a bit of a chill? Maybe it’s not traditional, but who cares! Wine is about celebrating flavor, aroma, and life. So, just make sure you’re enjoying your wine and the rest will sort itself out eventually.