How to Store Wine at Home for Beginners
Looking for tips on how to store wine properly?
Believe it or not, there's a right way and a wrong way to store your wine – that is, if you actually like the taste of wine. Even if you don't have a full-on wine cellar in the basement of your home (or even a basement at all), you can still enjoy wine the way it was meant to be experienced.
In this post, we'll share time-tested tips for storing wine so that it can age gracefully and may even outlive you!
The Importance of Storing Your Wine Correctly
Wine can quickly turn into vinegar if you're not careful.
We place a lot of emphasis on the type and quality of wine that we curate, but that's only part of the struggle. Even the finest wine can spoil if you don't store it correctly. But even the most affordable wines can last for years if stored correctly.
Wine storage is important if you're a true wine enthusiast who enjoys aged wine. There's so much to appreciate in a well-aged wine, such as the blooming of flavors that were previously hidden. These notes are not apparent in young wine, but as the fruits age, they start to bring forth nuances such as vanilla, honey, licorice, chocolate, berry, and plum.
Related post: How to store Chardonnay Properly
Chill Your Wine
If you want to store your wines for a long time (anything beyond a few days), you must get the temperature right. Temperature is the most important factor to proper wine storage. If you don't nail the temperature, your wine will spoil in no time.
Wine must be stored at a consistent temperature to age properly and to prevent spoilage.
Wine that's left to room temperature or above will start to cook. It will age prematurely and rapidly.
But, on the other hand, wine that's too cold can possibly freeze. This, too, will speed up the aging process, and may even cause your bottles to crack due to the expansion.
Related post: Wine Cellar Insulation Guide
Speaking of expansion, here's another reason why you should keep your wine storage temperature consistent: Cork contraction. If the temperature in the wine storage room fluctuates dramatically, it can cause the bottle's cork to expand and contract. With each contraction, air can be introduced to your wine, which will cause it to spoil quickly. Cork contraction can also cause wine to leak out. That's bad news, so make sure that your wine storage room's temperature remains stable.
So what's the ideal temperature for wine storage?
The ideal temperature to store wine is between 50°F to 60°F, but the exact number varies based on wine type. Some wines, such as reds and fortifieds, do best at the upper range, while fruitier wines and whites can be stored at cooler temperatures, closer to 50°F.
If you have a wine cellar, then it's important to keep this temperature consistent using a specially designed cooling unit (air conditioners do not work and will ruin your wine). Alternatively you can use a wine cooler, which is great for a smaller collection.
The best brands of cooling units are WhisperKOOL, Breezaire, and CellarPro.
If you plan to store your whites and reds together, opt for a happy medium: 55°F. This way, your white wine can be served immediately and you can aerate and warm up your red wine for a few minutes until it reaches optimal serving temperature.
Sparkling wines, such as champagnes, can be served at temperatures between 47°F to 50°F. To achieve this temperature from your slightly warmer wine storage room, place the bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice for 30 minutes before serving. You can also place it in your refrigerator for a few hours prior, but avoid using the freezer.
Also note that, while the above tips are advisable for long-term wine storage, it's still a good practice to chill any wine that you bring into your home, even if you're planning to consume it quickly. Chilled wine tastes better because chilling it brings out subtle notes that you cannot taste when the wine is served at room temperature.
Choose the Right Humidity Level
The humidity of your wine storage room matters, so it's important to get the humidity level right. If the room is consistently cool but the air is too dry, the cork will still dry out and cause problems.
The ideal humidity level for wine storage is between 50% to 70%. You don't want to go above 70% because that can lead to another problem—mold. Plus, the extra humidity can cause the labels on your bottles to peel off, which can make it difficult to reference a year or so from now when you’re ready to finally enjoy it.
Ensure that the wine cooling system you install in your home also controls humidity levels.
Treat Your Wine Like a Vampire
Just like Dracula, wines don't do well in the sun. The sun is good for the grapes (while they're still clinging to the vine), but once bottled, it's best to store your wine out of direct sunlight. This is why wine cellars are a thing, but you don't need a full-blown cellar to protect your wine from the sun. A temperature controlled closet or other well-insulated interior room can offer the protection you're after.
Because sunlight can oxidize your wine, you'll need to shield it from natural light. However, that doesn't mean that your wine cellar must stay in complete darkness. You can use LED lights in your wine storage room because they do not emit UV light (which leads to oxidation) and only output a minimal amount of heat.
Related post: How to build a wine cellar
Store Wine Sideways
Wine isn't stored horizontally just for space-saving reasons. The best way to preserve wine over an extended period of time is to store the bottle on its side. This way, the cork can remain in touch with the wine, and stay moist.
If you've never stored wine before, you may not notice the moisture-level of the cork. It's generally fine to keep wine upright if you plan on consuming it within a matter of days. But, if you plan to store wine for months, years, or even longer, it's absolutely essential that you store corked wine on its side. A dried out cork can allow air to seep in, wine to seep out, and premature aging to commence.
Note that this isn't necessary if your bottle has a screw top.
More info: Why is wine stored on its side?
Don't Vibrate the Wine
You may be thinking, “This is absurd. How in the world can I vibrate wine in my home?” In every home, there are plenty of sources for vibration. Here are a few examples:
- Washer and dryer
- Heating, ventilating, and air conditioner unit (HVAC)
- Stereo equipment
- Heating pumps
- Garbage compactors
And that's just for starters. As a general rule of thumb, if it makes a sound, it's probably causing vibration.
Vibration is harmful to wine because it can speed up the aging process. Also, vibration affects the chemistry of the wine and can dull the wine's flavor, add grit to its otherwise smooth texture, and destroy its quality.
Also, avoid the vibrations that come from picking up bottles of wine needlessly. If you're not ready to consume a bottle yet, don't move it. Lifting up a bottle of wine just to admire it can disturb its chemical makeup, and negatively impact the taste.
When storing wine for aging purposes, remember that temperature consistency is the most important factor to your success. Wine is an investment so be sure to invest in your wine storage room. If you're looking to maintain the ideal temperature and humidity, check out our wine cellar cooling units here.
Read next: How to build an underground wine cellar