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Wine Storage Tips

Wine, like anything else, changes over time. That’s why it’s important to produce desirable changes and avoid harmful ones. You can do this by controlling the air, temperature, light, vibration, and humidity of the wine.

AIR

Nothing spoils good wine faster than too much air. This not only causes it to lose freshness but, more importantly, it causes the wine to oxidize. This results in premature aging and before long, you have vinegar instead of wine (yuk!). Fortunately, glass is impermeable to air and a good cork will keep air exchange to a minimum for years.

To ensure proper aging, all wine has some air in the bottle to begin with. What’s important is to ensure the cork remains moist so no additional air in allowed to enter the bottle. That’s why it’s advised to store your wine horizontally to keep the cork from cracking or shrinking, thus admitting unwanted air.

In addition, storing wine at around 70 percent humidity will help to keep the cork properly moistened (too low humidity dries it out; higher humidity encourages growth of mold and mildew).

Many people don’t realize the importance of the cork in a wine bottle, but it does play a major role in ensuring your wine stays fresh and ages properly.

TEMPERATURE

Proper temperature is another major factor is ensuring your wine stays drinkable before you open it. If a wine is stored in conditions that are too cold, it causes the cork to shrink (thus letting in air). If the conditions are too warm, the wine will age faster than it should.

The optimum temperature for storing wine is 50 to 55°F (10-12°C). However, any constant temperature within 40-65°F (5-18°C) is acceptable. Many people store their wine in cellars to maintain these temperatures, but small collections can be kept in wine cabinets, which come in all sizes and styles to fit your personal tastes.

Almost as important as the actual temperature is the rate of temperature change. A ten degree change over a season is harmless, but frequent and rapid changes can severely damage wine, even when stored within the desired range.

LIGHT

Along with controlling temperature and humidity, light exposure should be kept to a minimum. Though modern bottles have good UV filters, some can still penetrate — leading to a condition called 'light struck. This shows up as an unpleasant aroma. Incandescent bulbs produce less ultraviolet light than fluorescents, so the former are preferable.

VIBRATION

Vibration interferes with aging and stirs up sediments. Try to avoid moving bottles until ready to be served.

Interestingly, bottle size also plays a part in storing wine (albeit a rather small part). A larger bottle has a smaller ratio of air to wine so when you can, purchase or use a larger bottle. Once the bottle has been opened and if you don’t expect to consume the remainder in a few days, it’s suggested that you transfer the leftover wine to a smaller bottle.

Generally speaking, if you're a casual drinker (not a collector) and drink your wine within one year after purchase, you can store wine just about anywhere that is not exposed to light or heat (basement, closet, pantry, under the sink).

SUGGESTED AGING TABLE

The following contains some types of wine and the approximate period they should be aged for optimal flavor. In general, more expensive wines are designed to be aged longer. Cheaper wines (usually under $10) should be consumed within six months to a year from when you buy it. Also, red wines generally age better than white wines.

Type Cost Age (from vintage date)
     
Cabernet Sauvignon $12-15 5-6 years
  $25 7-15 years
     
Merlot $12-25 3-4 years
  $25 5-12 years
     
Syrah/Shiraz $12-25 3-5 years
     
Chardonnay $12-25 Consume within 5 years
     
California Riesling $12-25 Consume within 3-4 years

More information on storing wine can be found here.