The Proper Conditions of Wine Storage

Updated by Jim Deckebach

Is it possible to store wine at home? Absolutely; after all, most wine purchased is ready to drink at the time of purchase or would benefit from only a few years of aging. With a little work, it's possible to create optimal conditions for short- and long-term wine storage in the home. There are a few basic considerations that need to be addressed when deciding how and where wine should be stored for home use.

Store the Wine at the Correct Temperature

Proper wine storage depends on several factors, but none of these are as important as keeping the wine at the correct temperature. Storing wine at temperatures that are too high or too low will cause the wine to spoil. Generally, the correct temperature for wine storage is just about 55ºF (13ºC). However, the optimal temperature can vary from wine to wine. No wine should ever be kept at temperatures above 68°F (20°C) or below 25 °F (-4ºC). Wines stored at these extreme temperatures, even temporarily, will experience a rapid aging process and spoil more quickly, as needed volatile compounds break down. Temperature fluctuations also cause the wine's cork to contract and expand, allowing the wine to seep into the cork.

Positioning Bottles Correctly

Any bottle with a cork must be stored horizontally. Storing wine on its side helps keep the cork moist. This is vital because if the cork dries out wine can seep out and the entire bottle can experience rapid aging. Bottles with screw tops don't have to be stored horizontally, however, most people find storing all bottles horizontally makes for the most efficient use of their wine storage space.

Keep the Bottles Safe from Light

It doesn't matter if a bottle of wine is being stored for days or years, it's important to keep the bottle away from the light. Wine keeps best in the dark. UV rays (such as those from direct sunlight from windows) damage the flavor and aromas of the wine.

Protect from Vibrations

Storage for wine should be away from areas of heavy vibration. These include laundry areas, near dishwashing machines, exercise areas, near garages, or even in areas with a great stereo system. The vibrations can disturb the sediments in the wine bottles. If the sediment is disturbed, it can cause the wine to age badly.

Watch the Humidity

Just like extremes of temperature, extremes of humidity can also disrupt the wine's aging process and lead to rapid spoiling. If the humidity in the storage area is too low, the wine corks will dry out. Bottles with dry corks are vulnerable to oxygenation. Storage areas with high humidity will cause damage to the labels on the bottles. In fact, high humidity can cause the labels to fall off the bottles altogether, which influences the value of the bottle. Typically, wine storage areas do best with humidity levels around 65%.

Where to Set Up Storage

There's a reason why for centuries people stored their wine in cellars. The cool, dark, semi-humid conditions found in most underground spaces are ideal for storing wine. Most modern homes, however, lack cavernous underground spaces. That doesn't mean that long-term wine storage (or even proper short-term storage) isn't possible in a modern apartment or house. When using racks, it's important to keep the racks away from rooms that get lots of light or generate lots of heat (so no sunrooms, laundry rooms, basement areas near boilers, or kitchens). Closets in quiet, cool parts of the home can work well. Many people decide to invest in wine refrigerators to keep their wine in optimal conditions while also being stored conveniently in food prep or entertaining areas of the home.


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