Everyone seems to be drinking wine these days, from celebrities to the guy next door. However, not everyone knows how to properly store and care for their favorite merlot or moscato.
Proper wine storage plays an important role in the quality of what is in the glass, so proper wine storage is something all wine aficionados need to understand. That doesn’t mean that you have to have the perfect conditions for each and every bottle of wine you buy, and you should never let your lack of a proper cellar or cooler keep you from buying any wine you’d like to try or already enjoy. Just know that the better care you take of your wine while still in the bottle, the better it will taste once it is in your glass.
There are three main factors to consider when storing wine.
Light is the biggest danger to wine of all kinds, but especially to white and light colored wines. Any wine bottled in clear, light green or blue, or other light-colored glass is at risk.
Light can ruin a wine’s taste, scent, color, and feel to the point that it becomes undrinkable. Light breaks down some of the most important chemical compounds in wine, and can do the most damage over all other storage factors. And it’s not just sunlight that’s a risk, either. Candescent and fluorescent lights can do just as much harm. It’s best to store your wine in a dark place, like a closet or cupboard, if you don’t have a proper storage unit. If that’s not possible, consider wrapping your bottles in a dark, opaque fabric.
Humidity—how wet or dry the air is—is another factor to consider when storing your wine.
If the air is too dry, your wine can suffer from a dried out cork, which can allow air to enter the bottle. This can cause oxidation, which can spoil the wine completely. This is why wine is stored on its side—the wine itself keeps its own cork moist.
If the air is too moist, your wine probably won’t see any ill effects, but your labels might. And since one reason many people collect wine is for the resale value or the bragging rights value, a damaged, missing, or illegible label can affect the value of the wine. You want to keep the relative humidity at about 70-80% to prevent dry conditions and prevent too much moisture for your labels. Most commercial wine storage units are set for this. If you live in a particularly damp climate, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier for your wine closet.
The last major factor in wine storage and wine quality is temperature. Most refrigerators get too cold for quality wines, and you run the same risk of dry cork because they produce dry air. Too high a temperature can ruin the aging process, and with it, the wine. Wine can also freeze, unlike liquor, so it may not be the best idea to pop that bottle in the freezer for long-term storage or a quick chill before serving.
Most wines do fine at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit; however, for optimal temperature, you have to know your wine.
- White, blush and rose wines need a cooler temp, around 45-55˚F
- Champagne and other sparkling wines should be chilled to 43-47˚F
- Light reds are fine as long as they stay below 55˚F
- Darker red wines can go as high as 60-65˚F
Since most homes and homeowners can’t tackle daily temps suitable for even the “hottest” dark Syrah, you may have trouble finding a suitable place to store your wine without investing in a wine cooler of some sort.
However, the main key to wine temperature is consistency. Take a thermometer, a closet, and a day off. Check the closet’s temperature in the morning, noon, and sometime after sundown. If the closet’s interior temperature stays the same and don’t go above 68˚F, you can most likely use a shelf or a rack on the floor as a suitable place for storing your wine.
Wine and Small Factors
While light, humidity, and temperature are the main factors that affect the quality of your wine while in storage, there are a couple of smaller factors that have some impact.
The first is vibrations. Not everyone is convinced that movement is bad for wine, but since the jury’s split about 50/50 on this one, try not to place your wine where it will get much in the way of floor vibrations. Also, try not to jiggle the bottles too much while transporting them, as this can disturb any sediments that may have settled to the bottom and give the wine a gritty texture once it’s opened.
The other small factor is odors. Never keep your wine where there are other foodstuffs or items with strong odors like perfumes or cleaning products. Wine “breathes” through its cork, and strong odors can become trapped in the wine, ruining the taste. Related note: old wood can contain wood rot, which can spread to nearby wine corks. It’s best to store wine away from any dry, rotted wood, too.
Whether your wine collection consists of $5 bottles from the discount grocery or $500 bottles direct from the finest vintners, you’ll want to keep it as fresh and wonderful as you can. By keeping temperature, humidity, light, and other factors in mind, you can provide your wine with the best storage possible, whatever your situation.
Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net