While a nicely aged wine is something to be enjoyed, it does not come without careful thought and consideration. Proper wine storage will make a difference in flavor, color and character, for both the novice wine drinker and the experienced wine connoisseur. Wine is made from fruit and is perishable. While a bottle of vodka will not go bad due to its alcohol content, the alcohol content of wine is not high enough to prevent it from spoiling. Even bottles kept for a few months, or even a few weeks, can be positively or negatively impacted by how they are stored. Storage requirements depend on the type of wine and its intended use. The majority of wines made today are “ready to drink.” These wines will not improve with age and should be consumed within 6-12 months of bottling. Red and especially white wines that are made to improve with age will only do so with the proper storage.
Here is some basic wine storage knowledge to help you get the most out of your favorite bottle.
- Light – Direct sources of light, particularly sunlight, should be avoided. Many wineries use dark tinted bottles which reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet rays, but this doesn’t offer total protection. Also, the sun light shining through windows can cause temperature fluctuations throughout the day.
- Humidity – Moisture levels in the surrounding air should be maintained at 50 to 70% humidity to keep the exposed side of the cork from drying out. Some experts recommend humidity levels as high as 75% to be ideal. Humid conditions promote mold growth and the potential for damage to bottle labels and any wooden racks or structures increases as levels rise. Rot resistant woods such as redwood and cedar are often used in these environments. NOTE: Excessive humidity can cause severe damage to other areas of your home if not properly ventilated or contained in specifically designed rooms, cellars or enclosures.
- Temperature – Maintaining constant temperatures between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15°C) is generally considered ideal. Chemical reaction rates may double with each additional 18°F which affects the potential to develop an aromatic bouquet along with complexity. Slowly aging at a stable temperature promotes the desired characteristics. Try to locate any wine stored for the short term away from any heat sources such as appliances, heating / air conditioning ducts and direct sunlight.
- Bottle Orientation – This factor along with all the other guidelines becomes more important as the storage time increases. Many rack designs position the bottles oriented horizontally to assure the inside of the cork is kept constantly wet. This keeps both sides of the cork swollen, along with moist air on the outside, to prevent drying out and shrinking. Some wineries will even store facing upside down. Recent research suggests storing tilted at a slight upward angle as optimum with the trapped air pocket resulting from ullage moving to the top of the bottle. This will allow the cork to still remain damp and partially in contact with the wine.This method is thought to both reduce the effects of expelling liquid during expansion and keep the cork from allowing air inside the container while contracting. The upward slope helps reduce fluid loss, evaporation and oxidation, and also encourages any sediment to fall towards the punt at the bottom.