Mastering Wine Storage: Keep Your Vino Cheers-Worthy!
Do you love the sweet, tart flavor of a perfectly aged Cabernet Sauvignon or the spiciness of a crisp Pinot Grigio? The beauty of exquisite wines lies in their ability to be savored and appreciated for decades. To reap the magnificent flavours of vintage and aged wines, proper storage is key. Learning how to store wine correctly helps ensure that your collection becomes better with time – and never reaches its expiration date. Here’s all you need to know about mastering wine storage and keeping your vino cheers-worthy!
1. What is Wine Storage?
It’s no secret that wine is a fascinating and ever-changing but also temperamental beverage. That’s why proper wine storage is essential for keeping it at its best. With the right know-how, you can guarantee that the vino you open for a quaff with friends or a candle-light dinner will always be perfectly chilled and in peak condition.
- Temperature is key. Wine needs to be kept at a steady, cool temperature that won’t have drastic swings as the seasons change. Storing at temperatures higher than 70°F can result in oxidation and deterioration of the wine.
- Light exposure is an enemy. The parts of the spectrum that give natural light its color can oxidize the phenolics in the wine, resulting in cooked and lifeless wines. Any kind of strong light should be kept away from wines.
- Humidity is important. Wine can absorb and react to the humidity where it’s stored. If it’s high or too low, it can cause problems with the cork, label, and the life of the wine in general.
- An unshakable foundation. The storage environment should be vibration-free. Empty space should be filled with soft materials like foam or bubble wrap to absorb the vibrations.
The general idea when creating the ideal environment for your wine is to keep it away from direct light and in a place with consistent temperature and humidity levels. Investing in a dedicated wine cooler or wine fridge is the smartest way to ensure your favourite site can breathe in its optimal conditions.
When it comes to storage, the cardinal rule is that you should never store the wine above the kitchen or refrigerator. Heat, steam, and odours all come from these areas. So, even if the ambient temperature in the kitchen is just fine, it’s best to keep the wine as far away as you can from all sources of food.
2. How to Choose the Right Conditions for Storing Wine
Step 1: Assess Temperature Needs
If you want your vino to stay fresh, you’ll need to take a temperature assessment of whichever room/space you’re using for storage. The temperature should always remain at a consistent level, between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter, and it may age faster, and any cooler and it could become sour.
When considering temperature, it’s also important to keep an eye on the climate. If you live in a humid region, pay extra attention to the moisture levels, and make sure the area you’re storing your vino in is moisture-free. High humidity can cause corks to eventually expand and reduce the quality of the wine.
Step 2: Consider Light Requirements
Keep your wine away from any artificial or natural light, as exposure to even the softest of light can speed up the aging process. Try and find a dark spot in your home, like a basement corner, or if that’s not an option, store your vino in the corners of cupboards, drawers, or a pantry with enough distance from the stove, fridge, or any other appliance. With that said, avoid storing them in the fridge, as this may also cause cork dry-out.
Step 3: Opt for Horizontal or Upright Storage
The vast majority of Champagne bottles and some Burgundy bottles should be stored vertically, as this keeps the cork wet and prevents air from circulating. The other bottles should be stored horizontally. This ensures the cork is always in the wine, keeping air out and refreshing the flavor.
Step 4: Look for Horizontal Storage Solutions
If horizontal is your preferred choice for storing your wine, look for a storage system that holds your bottles in place. Or if you’re tight on space, look for stackable shelves. These can help keep your collection organized and tidy.
Step 5: Avoid Vibrations
Steer clear from any spot with regular vibrations, like washing machines or under-sink appliances. Too much movement can damage the wine’s relationship with the sediment and make it difficult to age.
Step 6: Keep an Inventory
Although is it relatively easy to organize a small collection, tracking a larger one can be a bit more tricky. The easiest way to keep an inventory is with a spreadsheet. Know exactly what you have, date received and consumed, bottle size and type, and other important information. That way you’ll always have an organized overview of your collection.
Step 7: Keep Tasting Notes
Keep notes of your wine journey and document your tasting experiences. Most importantly, have fun letting your nose and palette do the talking!
3. How to Maintain Wine Quality
Wine can quickly fall into disrepair if not properly stored and maintained. Here are a few essential tips and tricks to help you keep your vino tasting fresh and delicious—cheers!
- Ideal Temperature: Temperature changes are the enemy of your wine collection! Aim to keep your wines stored between 45-65°F. Keeping your wines at room temperature or higher will cause them to evaporate faster. Investing in a wine fridge is the most dependable way to maintain consistent temperatures.
- Light: Light also affects the quality of your wine. Keep your bottles out of direct sunlight to avoid degradation. Direct light can lead to an off-flavor and spoil the contents of your bottle.
- Humidity: Aim to keep your wine cellar or wine fridge between 60%-70% humidity to prevent the deterioration of corks and labels. Too little humidity may cause corks to dry out and allow air to enter. Too much humidity can affect the labels.
- Filtration: Contaminants and foreign particles can quickly ruin a bottle of wine. Keep your root cellar or wine fridge clean and free of dust and bugs. Replace the filters of your cooling unit regularly to make sure your air is fresh and clear.
- Orientation: Laying your bottles down will give your wine corks more contact with the liquids. This helps extend the life of the corks and prevents the cork from drying out. If you do not plan to drink your wine for a long time, it’s better to store it on its side. Store bottles upright only when you plan to drink them soon.
By following these simple steps, you can store your wine for longer periods of time and enjoy your bottles to their fullest. Whether you are an aspiring sommelier or just an enthusiast, you can keep your wine aged to perfection — cheers!
4. How Often to Check on Your Wine Storage
Regular check-ups on your wines are essential to prolonging the life of your wines. Old, damaged, or improperly stored wines can be an unpleasant surprise.
Check on your wines at least every month. The following are a few things to look for:
- Examine the bottles for any damages. Ensure the corks are still inserted tightly.
- Monitor the temperature of your wine storage. The temperature should be between 50-58 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Look at the wines, observing the colour and levels of sediment. Both should remain consistent.
- Check the humidity levels inside your wine storage. The ideal levels should reach between 50-70%.
Every few weeks, take the time to carefully re-arrange your wines. The bottles should be stored with the labels upright and facing outwards. Not only does this make for a visually pleasing look, but it also helps to show you damages or leaks that need to be addressed.
Finally, ensure your wine storage has enough ventilation to enable air circulation. This doesn’t mean opening the doors frequently, but rather checking that vents are functioning properly to prevent mould or odours from arising.
5. Tips for Creating the Ideal Wine Storage Environment
1. Temperature - To keep your wine tasting its best, keep the temperature constant and cool. 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Cooler temperatures can keep the wine fresh for long periods, while warmer temperatures can cause it to age too quickly and spoil.
2. Humidity – Most wines can adjust to a wide variety of humidity levels, but keeping it at 60-75% is ideal. Too dry and the corks will shrink, too wet and mold will form.
3. Light – Always keep your wine stored in dark areas. Exposure to sunlight will make the wine age faster and the taste will be off.
4. Avoid Vibrations - Seismic vibrations, even small ones, can damage the complex flavors of wines and reduce quality. To keep your wines tasting their best, keep them stored in an area that is free of vibrations.
5. Limit Access – Openings and closings of your storage area can also prematurely age the wine, allowing too much oxygen to enter. Only open when necessary and ensure the door is firmly shut after you’re done. By following these guidelines, you can have a cellar full of delicious wines at all times. Keep your bottles properly stored and take care of your wines regularly, and you can look forward to many more cheers-worthy toasts.