Have you bought a nice bottle of wine, or maybe you received one as a gift and you want to hang onto it for a while? Or perhaps you had stored a bottle for years and when you finally opened it, it was vinegar? Wine storage is a tricky thing and there are a lot of variables that affect wine as it ages. Can you successfully store wine at home without a wine cellar or wine fridge? It depends.
Now it is important to mention that not all wine benefits from long-term ageing. This is definitely a misconception many people have and I hear this alot. ‘All wine gets better with age, right?’ NO! Most wines are produced ‘ready to drink’ and are meant to be consumed right away or within the first year or two after release.
Before considering long-term storage (3 + years) of any wine I suggest you read the winemakers notes about the wine to make sure it will benefit from the extra time. You can often find detailed notes on the wineries website. Very rare or expensive bottles should be stored in a good quality wine fridge or proper cellar to ensure they will not deteriorate.
So why did I say ‘it depends?’ Well, if a wine is stored incorrectly, or in bad conditions, it will affect the flavour of the wine and can even cause the wine to become faulty. As I mentioned in the post “Why Does My Wine Smell Funky”, wines can get out of condition or cooked if not properly stored.
So let’s look at the ideal storage conditions for that special bottle.
Temperatures should be cool and constant. The sweet spot is between 10°- 15°C or 50°- 59°F. Avoid extreme hot and/ or cold environments to prevent cooking (over 21° C is in the danger zone) or freezing the wine. Higher temperatures mean the wine will age much faster. How much faster? A bottle of wine that should have been able to age 5-10+ years will start to deteriorate within months if it’s too hot. Keep that in mind when deciding how long to keep it if you live in a hot climate without air conditioning. Cooler is definitely better when it comes to temperature.
Note: “Room temperature” is considered 18°C in the wine world and let’s be honest, most of us don’t keep our rooms at that temeperture.
Consistency in temperature is even more important than the actual temperature. However, it’s important to understand we are talking about the liquid temperature of the wine itself, not the room temperature. So short lived room temperature variations won’t be a problem, but sustained temperature fluctuations over months (seasons) or even days, will have a dramatic effect on the wine. What does that mean? It means places like storage sheds and garages may not be a good place for your wine if they are not insulated and you live in a place with extreme temperature changes.
TIP: Your Kitchen is one of the worst places to store wine because of the temperature change. Never use a wine rack that is above the fridge or near the stove. You will be cooking your wine along with your dinner.
Another common mistake is storing your unopened bottle in the refrigerator. Short term is fine, and obviously once it is open, however, extended periods of time at very cold temperatures will cause the cork to harden and lose elasticity. Once this happens, the seal is broken and air will get into the wine, causing oxidization. Sparkling wines will lose their ‘sparkle’ and become flat.
- Store wines with corks on their side so the cork stays moist. lf cork dries out it will allow air into the bottle, just like when it gets too cold. Wines with screwcaps can be stored upright without a problem.
- Keep it dark. Your wine needs to be away from strong light, either natural or artificial. Never keep your winerack near a sunny window as it will heat up the wine, ageing it faster and causing oxidization. Strong artificial light can also cause unpleasant aromas and flavours to develop. This is one reason why wine bottles are often coloured.
- Humidity levels should be between 50% – 80%. If the humidity is too low, the corks will dry out, letting air in. If the humidity is too high, it won’t harm the wine, but it will destroy the labels over time.
- Your wine needs to be in an odor-free environment so make sure it isn’t stored near strong smelling chemicals (like paint or cleaning solvents) or harsh odor foods like onions. Small amounts of air will get into the bottles through the cork and odor molecules can also get in.
So you can see why I said ‘it depends’ at the start of this post. There are a lot of factors that will influence your wine and it takes the right conditions for that special bottle to benefit from ageing. Keep these conditions in mind when finding the spot to store your wine and you will have a much better chance of success.
Do you have a wine that you are saving? Share it with us in the comments.