Wine Storage: The 7 Basics You Should Know

Most people have a small to medium collection of wine they have aquired from wine clubs, travel or gifts that they would like to store for some time before opening. There are always a few questions that come up about what is best for keeping that wine in it's prime condition. Here are a few wine storage tips for those without profressional wine storage needs. (Meaning your wine collection isn't appraised and in needs of provinonce for resale purpose.)

1. Keep it Cool

Heat is enemy number one for wine, and a temperature of more than 70° F will age a wine more quickly than desired. When it gets too much warmer, the wine may get “cooked,” resulting in flabby mouth feel, flat aromas and flavors. The ideal temperature range is between 45° F and 65° F (and 56° F is often cited as the perfectcellar temp), though this isn’t an exact science. Don’t fret too much if your storage runs a couple degrees warmer, as long as you’re opening the bottles within a few years from their release.

2. But Not Too Cool

Storing your wine in a standard upright refrigerator is fine for up to a couple months, but it is not good for longer term use. The average fridge temp falls well below 45° F to safely store perishable foods, and the lack of moisture could eventually dry out corks, which might allow air to seep into the bottles and damage the wine. Also, don’t keep your wine somewhere it could freeze, as the liquid starts turning to ice and as it expands it will push the cork out.

3. Steady is the Key

More important than trying to achieving the perfect 56°F, is to avoid the rapid, extreme or repeated temperature swings. On top of cooked flavors, the expansion and contraction of the liquid inside the bottle might push the cork out or cause seepage. Try for consistency, but don’t get paranoid about minor temperature fluctuations.

4. Turn the Lights Off

Light, especially sunlight, can pose a problem for long-term storage of wine, as UV rays can degrade and prematurely age wine. One of the reasons why vintners use colored glass bottles, is that it's like sunglasses for wine. Light from household bulbs probably won’t damage the wine itself, but can fade your labels in the long run..

5. Don’t Sweat the Humidity

Wisdom says that wines should be stored at an ideal humidity level of 70%, so that dry air will not dry out the corks and let air into the bottle to spoil the wine. For most home storage needss, anywhere between 50% - 80% humidity is considered safe, and placing a pan of water in your storage area can improve conditions. Conversely, extremely damp conditions can promote mold. 

6. See Things Sideways

Traditionally, bottles have been stored on their sides in order to keep the liquid up against the cork, which theoretically should keep the cork from drying out. If the bottles have alternative closures (screw caps, glass or plastic corks), this is not necessary.

7. Not a Whole Lot of Movement

Vibration will damage wine in the long term by speeding up the chemical reactions in the liquid. Some serious collectors fret about even the subtle vibrations caused by electronic appliances, but use common sense to determine if your storage location is close to a device with motors or fans.