How to Properly Store Wine in Warmer Climates: 5 Tips
As they say, wine is best served at a chilled temperature. But wine is also best stored at a chilled temperature. Instead of quickly raising the wine's temperature just prior to serving, it's best to keep the wine at a constant temperature while in storage. This guarantees that you’ll always get that perfect glass of wine, whether you're storing the bottle for just one week or a whole decade.
Temperature plays a huge role in the preservation of your wine collection. Wine thrives best when stored in an environment that mimics the temperature you would naturally enjoy in a traditional underground wine cellar. The ambient, year-round temperature underground is between 50º and 60º.
But what do you do when you don't have access to an underground cellar? What if you live in a warmer climate where you rarely, if ever, see temperatures below 60º? Is there a secret to storing wine properly in a warmer climate?
Spoiler alert: The answer to that last question is “absolutely.” And in this post, we’re letting you in on the top ways to properly store your wine when the weather outside is blistering.
Let’s get started.
Why Does Temperature Matter For Wine Storage?
Temperature affects more than just a wine's taste. The temperature of your wine plays a role in its aging process. If the wine is too warm, it can age prematurely. This will lead to bitter disappointment, pun intended.
Imagine this: You've procured an exquisite bottle of velvety Malbec that promises delicious notes of blackberry, smoke, and chocolate. You decide to age this bottle for 10 years, waiting until a special anniversary or other momentous occasion to finally pop the cork.
But then, after waiting all of those years to enjoy, you find that the Malbec's trademark inky purple has gone pale, its black berry/plum aroma has turned vinegary, and its taste is sharper or nuttier than it should be. Instead of fruit and florals, you get cabbage or paint thinner. Alas, your beautiful bottle of Malbec is missing that fresh aliveness that we look for in every bottle.
It's a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
But all of this can be avoided by simply checking the thermostat in your wine cellar.
So, how exactly does temperature affect wine?
To answer this question, we need to briefly revisit chemistry class.
Wine is mostly composed of water and alcohol. The remaining 3% of wine—the chemical compounds—do the heavy lifting. These chemical compounds impart color, aroma, and flavor to the wine, i.e. all of the good stuff. (Although alcohol is arguably the good stuff, too.)
These compounds react to each other and to the environment around them. One bottle of wine may have thousands of different chemical compounds. And they're a fragile bunch. If the compounds bump against each other, which happens when your wine is subjected to constant vibrations, certain acids, like tartaric, can decrease in the wine. This leads to a dull taste.
And, if your wine gets too warm, acetic acid can form. Acetic acid is one of the main components of vinegar.
Wine, along with every other organic substance on earth, will age. But it ages more rapidly when warm. Aging is not bad for wine, especially if the wine is meant to be aged. When wine ages at a proper pace, its flavors and aromas have a chance to evolve and develop. However, if the wine ages too quickly, then it will expire before you have a chance to taste it.
The goal is to slow and control the aging process so that your wine is reliably delicious when you want to enjoy it.
Now, keep in mind that most wine should not be aged. The vast majority of wine (99%) is meant to be consumed now, i.e. within two to five years after purchase. (Reds typically last longer than whites.)
But just because you aren’t aging the wine for an extended length of time doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t carefully preserve the wine in storage. After all, a $30 bottle is still an investment. And that investment adds up with each new bottle you add to your collection.
What is the Ideal Temperature for Wine Storage?
Make sure that your wine isn’t too hot or too cold.
The ideal storage temperature for your wine varies based on the grape. Full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah can be stored and served at between 60° to 65°. A sparkling wine or champagne is preserved and best served at between 40° to 45°. Most other wines, like Riesling and Beaujolais, fall somewhere between these two extremes.
But what happens if you have a collection of wine that contains everything from rich ports to light whites? After all, you don't want to freeze your reds, which can slow the aging process. And you also don't want to prematurely age your sparklings and whites by storing them in a space that's too warm.
According to research, the ideal temperature for wine storage is between 55° to 60°. And keep in mind that this temperature range isn't just for long-term storage. It also applies to any wine that you plan to enjoy within the next two to five years. Instead of storing it in a dark corner of your pantry or guest room closet, your wine needs to stay protected in a temperature-controlled space that does not experience heat or cold fluctuations.
This brings us to our next question: How do you protect your wine collection and control the temperature if you live in a warmer climate?
How to Store Wine in Warmer Climates
You have options when it comes to wine storage.
1. Build a Wine Cellar
Your first option is to build a full-fledged wine cellar. If you love wine, have a sizable collection (100 bottles or more), and would like to expand your collection in the future, building a wine cellar makes sense.
Plus, if you're the DIY type, you can absolutely build a storage room for your wine. In this post, we share easy tips on how to build your own wine cellar.
And, if you don't have a dedicated basement in your home, there are many other places you can choose. In this post, we share a list of unique places to put a wine cellar in your home.
2. Buy a Wine Cooler
Your second option is to invest in a wine cooler or refrigerator.
A lot of people think that a wine refrigerator is just a fancy version of a kitchen refrigerator, but there are differences. While both appliances keep contents cool, a kitchen refrigerator runs at a cooler temperature (at or below 40º). Depending on the wine type you're storing, your refrigerator needs to be much warmer.
And because it's opened frequently, a regular kitchen refrigerator will experience constant temperature fluctuations. These fluctuations can damage the wine.
Humidity is another factor. A standard kitchen fridge is designed to remove humidity and keep contents cold. However, a wine fridge seals the humidity in. And you can also find wine refrigerators that allow you to directly control humidity levels, which is important for long-term wine storage.
At the end of the day, wine refrigerators are a great solution if you have a small collection, need a storage solution for your everyday wines, or you don't have the space/ability to build a wine cellar.
Whatever you do, avoid storing your wine at room temperature. This includes "dark" corners in your closets and under your bed. And, definitely don’t store your wine above your fridge, where it will get exposed to constant heat from the condenser coils.
Storing wine at room temperature (which is around 70º) has been proven to age wine four times faster than if stored at a temperature just 10º to 20º lower.
In addition to the above, keep the following in mind when storing wine in warm weather or a warmer climate:
3. Check Your Wine Before Purchase
Check your wine before leaving the store or winery. If the wine is already warm to the touch, that's a bad sign. If the room itself is warm, that's also not good. Ideally, the wine store or winery should stock their wine in a cool environment that mimics a cellar in temperature and appearance.
Avoid purchasing any wine that has been displayed in direct sunlight also.
4. Be Careful of How You Transport Your Wine
A lot of people don’t think about this one, but the way you transport your wine can potentially damage it forever.
When transporting your wine, be sure that your car is cool and hasn’t been sitting in the hot sun for a long amount of time. Ideally, the temperature in your car should be the same as the store or cellar (around 60°).
Then, maintain that temperature as you transport your wine in the passenger compartment until you arrive home.
If you’re not heading straight home after the purchase, you have two options:
Use a cooler with ice or ice packs
Bring the wine inside with you if you’re headed into another air conditioned space
5. Avoid Storing Wine Next to Windows
Sunlight is wine’s kryptonite.
Sunlight can quickly age wine. This is why you should store wine in a darker spot in your home, preferably in the basement or heart of your home. And, although it's trendy, avoid adding windows to your wine storage room.
This is especially important if you're in a warmer climate.
Sunlight introduces heat and makes it harder to maintain a constant temperature in your space. The UV rays from the sun can also get into the bottles and permanently alter the wine's chemical composition.
One of the easiest but most important things you can do to preserve your wine is to control its temperature from storage to enjoyment. Use the above tips to ensure that your wine stays perfect in storage, no matter what the temperature is outside.