Wine 101: How To Store Your Wine (Or Not)

One question we get all the time here at the winery is how to properly store wine (or, just as importantly, whether it’s worth storing the wine long-term at all.) Many red wines – and quite a few whites as well – are intended to be aged in the bottle before they are opened.

Short-Term Storage: If you are storing wine for more than a month, its best to consider carefully where you are going keep it.

Longer-Term Storage: If you plan to keep your wine more than 6 months, we highly recommend you follow these simple guidelines to protect your wine investment, whether you’re storing the bottle for 5 months or 5 years or more.

Do I Need A Cellar?
Of course a temperature-controlled wine cellar is the ideal place for long-term wine storage. But for those of us without that option, just mimicking the conditions of a wine cellar can be pretty simple:

1)      Cool Temperature
Wines should be stored on their sides at cool temperatures ranging from 55-65°F. Cool temperatures will slow the aging process and help the wine develop properly in the bottle. Note that the kitchen counter is rarely a steady 55°F. Same goes for the garage.

2)     Less Than 10°F Fluctuation
Aim for less than 10°F temperature fluctuation throughout the year. Temperature fluctuations can cause the wine to expand and contract, which can damage the cork causing leakage and oxidation resulting in a big mess and ruined wine.

3)      Humidity
Humidity should be between 60-80%. Less than 60% humidity can cause evaporation and oxidation (bad), while humidity greater than 80% encourages mold (yuk).

4)      Darkness
Yes – your wine may be a little sensitive. Excessive light exposure causes wine proteins to become hazy and can create “off” aromas and flavors. And by “off” we mean “not good.”

5)      No Vibration
If you have your wine stored in the laundry room, it’s time to rethink the situation. Vibration traveling through wine can hinder its development, so keep wine away from vibration (from appliances or motors).

6)      Odor Free
We think this one is pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised. Unless you want your wine to offer a “bouquet of bleach”, your storage area should be free from chemical odors, such as cleaners, household paints, etc.

So Where Can You Achieve These Conditions?
Our favorite choice is a little-used closet, preferably on the interior of your home or apartment. The humidity is probably the trickiest condition – but if you live in a very dry or very humid area, you are probably already doing something to even out the humidity in your living space.

Why It Matters
Ever wondered why some red wines require or improve with bottle age? The various components of red wines continue to evolve in the bottle – fruity aromas and flavors mellow while the tannins and pigment begin to interact with oak compounds imparted during fermentation and barrel aging – softening the wine’s tannic impression. Wine connoisseurs consider the evolvement of the wine in bottle part of the mysterious life of the wine and one of its most alluring qualities. The rest of us just enjoy the taste.