Having recently returned home from a trip to California to visit family, I realized most of the United States is warming up. This brought to my mind how important it is to keep cool – you and your wine. Heat is one of the biggest reasons your wine will turn to vinegar or worse. Here are some ways to store and not store your wine.
Heat – Heat is the number one enemy. Wine does not like to be kept above 70 degrees. Temperatures above 70 degrees will age your wine faster than you want and will change the flavors and aromas to be flat and bitter.
Cold – Along with the heat, wine does not like to be kept too cold. If you’re keeping your wine in the refrigerator, do not keep it for longer than one year, especially if the refrigerator gets below 45 degrees. If you’re keeping your wine in an unheated garage, make sure it does not freeze. The frozen liquid could push the cork up and out. Also, if you do keep your wine in the refrigerator, open it about 10 minutes before you intend to drink it. Wine, even White and Rosé, should not be served too cold, it diminishes the aromas and flavors. I personally keep my Whites, Rosé, Pinot Noir and Shiraz in the refrigerator. I take the Pinot Noir and Shiraz out about 30 minutes before serving. My refrigerator is set to 50 degrees.
Basically wine likes to be kept at a temperature that runs between 45 degrees and 65 degrees. Frequent or extreme temperature fluctuation can cause the liquid to expand and contract causing the cork to seep or even become pushed out.
Light – Sunlight can pose a potential problem for long-term storage. The sun’s UV rays can degrade and prematurely age wine. One of the reasons why wine, particularly red wine, comes in colored glass bottles is to help keep the daylight away from the wine. Light from household bulbs probably won’t damage the wine itself, but can fade your labels in the long run.
Humidity – If you’re living in a desert or arid climate you will need to watch out for the low humidity. Dry air will dry out the corks, which would let air into the bottle and spoil the wine. Anywhere between 50 percent and 80 percent humidity is considered safe, and placing a pan of water in your storage area can improve conditions if you are in a dry climate. Conversely, extremely damp conditions can promote mold. This won’t affect a properly sealed wine, but can damage the labels. A dehumidifier can fix that.
Time – Not all wines improve over time. Generally inexpensive wines will not improve. Red wines can be stored and aged for anywhere between 2-10 years to mature depending on varietal. The type of red wine and the balance of its sugar, acid and tannins will determine how long it can be stored. Most white wines and rosé wines should be consumed after 2-3 years of storage.
Other factors such as too much shaking (if you live near a train station or a music studio) and laying down your corked bottles, (laying them sideways helps to keep the cork damp) come into proper storage of your wine, along with isolating your wine from strong smells (wine does breath and can become tainted by strong smells) but these issues are primarily for storing wine longer than four or five years. If you are considering storing your wine longer than six years and do not have a below ground basement then you should look into professional storage.
So, how to properly store your wine? The easiest solution is a designated refrigerator or wine cooler. Set the temperature to 50-55 and you will be fine. If you don’t want to have a separate refrigerator sitting around, you can use any type of rack as long as it is in a dark, stable space that is not too humid or dry. Usually a closet or cabinet will work. Do not store your wine in the kitchen or garage.
Wine does not need a fancy storage unit (although wouldn’t it be nice to have one), wine wants a nice temperate, dark, not too dry – not too humid spot to lay down for awhile. If you want to purchase a unit especially built for storing wine, look for something that does not have a clear window for the door – this will let in the light. Find something that will allow you to see most of what is in the storage unit when the door is open. One of the drawbacks of a refrigerator is how difficult it is to find that particular wine you’re looking for.
If you’re going to store wine, it helps to keep your wine information on a spreadsheet or in a notebook. Write down the varietal, the place of purchase, the price and date of purchase. If you’re storing your wine and you drink it a year after you purchase it, it is nice to have this information for reference. It is also good to keep track of what has been removed from your storage to keep track of what you have and what you do not have. This helps you to keep a balance of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy, Rioja, well, you get the idea. I also like to get some adhesive tape and write on the tape with black marker the year the wine will be ready. I put this information right on the front for easy reading.
After you open your wine and the bottle is not empty, store white wine with the cork or top on it in your refrigerator for three or four days. Red wine should have the oxygen removed (this is done with a wine pump and stopper) and can be held in a dark cabinet for three or four days.
My biggest problem is space, once you start storing wine, cataloging it and enjoying it with friends, you’re going to want to continually add to your collection.