One of the most common questions we get asked at WineBaskets.com is how you should store your wine, both before you have opened it, and after you have opened it. To help answer these common and confusing questions – we’ve created a simple guide to help you, as a wine lover, can get the most life and the best results out of your wine. Plus, you will look like the genius with all the answers to questions about wine at the next dinner party or wine tasting you go to! Let’s dive in and find out how to properly store your wine, and how to store your wine once it has been opened.
Tip #1: The most important thing to remember about storing wine before you are ready to open it is this:
CONSTANT, COOL TEMPERATURE.
Heat is enemy number one for all wine! Keeping your wine (and this goes for both red and white wines, as well as sparkling wine and Champagne, Port, and everything in between) at a constant cool temperature is the most important aspect of keeping your wine in a drinkable state. Whether or not it is a wine that ages well, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or should be enjoyed while it is still young, such as a Pinot Grigio, the outer temperature surrounding the bottle is of utmost, crucial importance. High temperatures, for example, above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or rises and dips in temperature will change the chemical make up of the wine. It will age a wine quicker than is natural for the bottle, collapsing the aromas, the flavors and the all-important texture of the wine. Have you ever heard someone say “this wine is cooked”? That is the result of wine being stored in too high of a temperature.
Keep your wine between 45 to a maximum of 65 degrees F. A basement is the ideal place to store unopened wine, because of the cool temperature and the lack of sunlight (we will get to that in a minute). Don’t go below 45 degrees (like storing wine in the refrigerator) for a few reasons – the cork can dry out and allow more air to seep into the wine, or the wine could start to freeze and expand, breaking the bottle or the cork. If you do not have a basement, store your wine in a place that is dark and cool, such as the floor of your kitchen pantry. Heat rises, so putting your wine bottles close to the ground and in a dark place is a good idea.
One of the things we have been noticing is that there is a trend of new homes having a wine rack built in above the refrigerator. This is the worst place to store your wine! All the heat from the back of the refrigerator is going to destroy that wine. So if you live in a home with a built in rack above the fridge, by all means necessary, move that wine out of there and into a cool place with a constant temperature.
And avoid big temperature swings! Minor fluctuations are pretty much unavoidable, but big swings in temperature, say 10 degrees or more at a time, the liquid inside the wine bottle will expand and contract, which will also have a terrible effect on the quality of the wine.
Tip #2: The second most important thing to remember about storing wine before you are ready to open it:
All light can be potentially bad for wine storage, but natural light (think from the SUN, aka UV light) is especially dangerous for wine storage. This is because the UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun can also prematurely age wine. This is one of the main reasons why many winemakers use colored glass for wine bottles! Think of it like a little pair of sunglasses for your wine! If natural light is something you can avoid, please do.
Florescent light bulbs also emit small amounts of UV rays, so if you are storing your wine in the basement or in another cool place, consider changing out the florescent tube bulbs for incandescent lights. If this is not going to be possible for you, just try not to keep the lights on for too long of stretches of time.
Tip #3: The third most important thing you can do when storing unopened wine:
KEEP THE BOTTLE ON ITS SIDE.
Wine bottles with corks should always be stored on their sides. Why? Because this keeps some liquid touching the cork so that it will not dry out! Even if your bottles are mostly screw caps (which is quite popular these days and there is nothing wrong with a screw cap!) we still recommend keeping wine stored on its side, as it is the most efficient way and will not hurt any bottle.
Once your wine – be it red wine, white wine, sparkling wine or a dessert wine – has been opened, you really only have a few days to consume the rest of it. And since oxygen turns wine into vinegar, there are a few things you can do to slow down that process and still enjoy the wine that you could not polish off.
1. The same rules apply to opened wine as they do to unopened: constant cool temperature and avoid light. Keep the wine in the refrigerator – yes, even red wine!
2. Put the cork back in the bottle, and your wine will last 3 – 5 days in the refrigerator. However, you can make it last even longer with a few other tools, such as an inert gas perserver (this replaces the oxygen that has gotten into the bottle with argon, which is heavier than oxygen and keeps the wine from oxidizing) or a vaccum pump, which removes all the oxygen from the bottle. You can find both of these tools in Wine Enthusiast’s online shop.
3. Get a Champagne stopper. This is one of the best accessories you can have for preserving your sparkling wines. Wine Folly’s Italian-made Champagne stopper is the best on the market.
4. Store all opened wines upright! This will minimize the amount of oxygen in the bottle.
We hope this has been helpful in your process of learning how to properly store wine, before and after opening!
Check back on Uncorked soon for even more helpful wine tutorials.