Wine Cellar Innovations Guide to Storing Your Wine Properly

Updated by Jim Deckebach

In a matter of days, the wine you just bought can go from flavor-intense in a good way to flavor-intense in a bad way. Whether you are a drinker of fine wines or budget bottles, you need to know how to store your wines so they don't spoil.

While you might think that all wine can be aged and gets better with time, this is not actually the case. If you have an expensive bottle of fine wine, you can sometimes age it with the proper storage and aging techniques. However, most wines (about 99%) are not designed to age and will not taste better with time.

Depending on how much wine you have in your house at one time, you might want to seriously consider how you are storing your bottles. Since wine can spoil if not stored correctly, it's important to know how to store it to avoid your wine going bad. When storing fine wines, you may want to talk to a wine connoisseur about the best options for your particular bottles.

The following tips will help you extend the life of your wine at home through proper storage techniques.

Evaluate the Wine That You Want to Store

Knowing how much and what kind of wine you want to store is an important first step to determining how to store it. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of (wine) am I storing?
  • How long do I want to store it?
  • Where do I want to store it?

Each wine should be stored differently based on its characteristics and needs. Starting with these questions can give you a good jumping-off point for making the best decisions for your bottles.

Choose a Wine Rack

The benefits of using a wine rack to store your wine are great. With a properly located rack, you can keep the wine from moving, lessen the amount of environmental variations it experiences, and keep the corks moist. You can choose horizontal wine racks or vertical ones, but horizontal wine racks are among the most popular and best for storing wine. Vertical racks can be problematic because storing bottles upright can allow the cork can dry out and shrink, ruining your wine.

You can choose either metal or wooden wine racks, and each material has its own benefits. When you choose a custom-built rack made of wood, you'll be getting a classic look and can choose from a variety of wood options to suit the design of your space. However, some wine-lovers prefer metal racks, which can contain niches shaped to more snugly cradle the bottles. Whichever material you choose, you'll want to make sure that it's well-constructed so it's sturdy enough to keep your bottles safe.

Find a Dry, Dark Storage Space

(Wine) can experience dramatic shifts in flavor if exposed to too much sunlight, which is called being "lightstruck." Light can make certain compounds in wine oxidize, and this change in the composition of the wine can change its flavor. And it's not just sunlight that causes this effect: Lights of any kind can be an issue. It's best to keep your wine away from any constant light source to protect its flavor.

Store Wine at a Consistent Temperature and Humidity

Wine is temperature-sensitive as well as humidity-sensitive. Wine should be stored somewhere between 45 and 65 degrees: When wine gets too cold, it can freeze, causing the bottle to burst, and when wine gets too warm, it can spoil. It's also important for the temperature to stay consistent: Fluctuating temperatures, whether they are human-made or a result of the weather outside, can cause the wine to deteriorate faster.

Wine also needs to be stored at the perfect humidity in order to maintain its characteristics. If wine is stored at too low of a humidity, you risk the cork drying out, which can allow air into the bottle; with too much humidity, wine is likely to mold and the bottle and label will degrade. The best humidity for wine is around 60 percent.

Don't Store Corked Bottles Upright

It's better to store wine in the horizontal position if the bottle has a cork. When a bottle of wine is stored horizontally, the wine touches the cork, helping it to stay hydrated. When the wine is stored upright, you risk the cork drying out and shrinking, which can allow air into the bottle, spoiling the wine.

Be Aware That Most Wine Has an Expiration Date

Most wine is best consumed within a year or two of purchase. Keep in mind that white wine has a shorter shelf life than red wine.

If you are looking for a wine that ages well, look for one with high acidity and abundant tannins. Sweeter wines will also tend to age better than drier ones.

Avoid Strong Odors That Can Taint the Wine

Wine can "breathe" through the cork, which means that it can take on odors from the air surrounding it. This means that you wouldn't want to store your wine near food or trash in the kitchen or paint or mothballs in the basement.

Don't Leave Wine in the Fridge for Long

You might want to chill your wine before drinking it, and that's OK. But you should avoid storing your wine in the fridge for prolonged amounts of time. Most refrigerators are set to 35 to 38 degrees, much colder than the recommended temperature for storing wine. In addition, the air inside a refrigerator is fairly dry, which can lead to a dry cork and all of the problems that come along with that.

Also, oddly enough, the vibration of your refrigerator can alter the properties of your wine. When the fridge kicks on, it vibrates slightly, which can cause the wine to become more acidic and lose some tartaric and succinic acids and tannins.

But even though the refrigerator isn't great long-term storage, it is the best place to keep opened wine. In the fridge, your bottle of wine is likely to stay good for a few days; just don't put off drinking it too long.


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