Wine bottles are sensitive… and expensive. Keeping them in the wrong place in your home can shorten the wine’s lifespan, or worse, kill it all together. Follow this guide to keep your wine safe from going bad. Find out the best way to store wine to keep it fresh and healthy and how long it’s safe to store wine at room temperature.
Why does wine need to be stored properly?
Whether you’re storing wine short-term or long-term, you may be doing it wrong. Don’t worry, storing wine properly is easy. I am here for all your wine storage solutions! Wine is a rather sensitive beverage with 4 natural enemies; heat, light, oxygen, and vibration. Heat and light are the two big ones that are messing up your wine bottles. The best way to store wine is to limit exposure to these elements. They will really destroy your wine which is money down the drain. I’m not saying you need to build a state-of-the-art wine cellar but there are a few tricks to making your wine age properly. First let’s examine what these elements do to wine.
How Does Heat Damage Wine?
Heat is a sworn enemy of wine. Like with all chemical reactions, heat speeds up the ageing process. Now this might seem like a good thing, like oh yay, my wine will age sooner and I don’t need to wait 10 years. Nope, it’ll screw up all the flavors and chemical compounds, too. Heat speeds up oxidation in wine. While teeny-tiny amounts of oxygen at a time is essential to a wine ageing, it completely destroys wine in large doses.
The ideal storage temperature for wine
Wine needs to be stored at room temperature, right? WRONG! Room temperature refers to the temperature of a subterranean wine cellar not our cozy centrally heated homes. The ideal storage temperature for wine is 55f/13c degrees. Is your house 55f/13c degrees? I think not. I know what you’re thinking, sh*t, I have some wines out right now. How long can you store wine at room temperature? Don’t worry, you haven’t destroyed your wine just yet. Wine can be stored at room temperature for about 6 months before any major damage has occurred, assuming it’s not in direct sunlight or by your furnace.
How Does Light Damage Wine?
Have you ever wondered why some wines come in dark glass bottles? It’s to protect it from the damaging effects of the sun. Sunlight and even light from a lamp rearrange the chemical compounds in the wine giving it a nasty taste and smell. For white wines, the wine can even change color to dark goldish brown, too. Whites and rose wine are the most susceptible to “light strike” and yet they are usually packaged in clear bottles. Makes no sense.
How Does Oxygen Damage Wine?
As I briefly mentioned above, when a bottle of wine gets too hot it increases the rate of oxidation. Oxygen can also kill your wine another way; through the cork. We’ve seen that wine bottles are usually laid on their sides and not upright, here’s why. The wine should be in constant contact with the cork to keep the cork from drying out and shrinking. If the bottle is upright, and the cork shrinks, more oxygen gets into the bottle. Oxygen in small doses is good, that’s how wines age gracefully. Oxygen in big doses will make your wine smell and taste dull.
How Does Vibration Damage Wine?
Now vibration isn’t the biggest deal when it comes to wine storage especially with wines that are being stored short-term, but it is something you want to avoid with any wines you’re hoping to save for years to come. Vibration will prevent sediment from settling in one spot. When you decant an old wine, you decant it to remove sediment. You can’t do that if the wine has been shaken up and the sediment is floating all over the place. Sediment isn’t bad for you, it’s like coffee grinds, harmless but the texture is off-putting.
Short-term Wine Storage
Most of the wine you buy will need short-term storage. In fact, most wine is consumed within 5 hours of purchase and needs no storage at all! Short-term storage is less than 6 months.
A big mistake I see all the time is holding on to wine for too long. Not all wine is meant to age. Winemakers in the last few decades have started to make their wines drinkable earlier so that the wines can be drunk sooner rather than waiting 10 years.
Even if the wine will be consumed relatively soon, it still needs to be protected from the elements mentioned above. It only takes mere hours for light and heat to destroy a wine.
Long-term Wine Storage
Unless you’re some crazy Burgundy collector, your long-term wine storage won’t take up much space but will want to find the best way to store wine that works for your home and budget. You want to take the most care with these wines, after all you’re probably saving them for a special occasion. If done correctly, you will be graciously rewarded.
The Worst Places to Store Wine at Home
On top of the refrigerator
The absolute worst place to store wine is on top of your refrigerator. You cannot imagine my face when I’m daydreaming and scrolling Zillow and see these elaborate kitchens with a freaking wine rack built in above the fridge! AAAAH! NO! The top of the refrigerator is hot, with lots of light, and it vibrates. Three strikes and it’s out.
In the refrigerator
You can keep wine unopened wine in the fridge for up to a month without issue. The problem with keeping wine in the refrigerator too long is that the fridge is too cold, and too dry, and there’s lots of smelly things in there. Too cold, meh, that doesn’t worry me too much. Too dry is an issue. The lack of humidity will shrink the cork letting oxygen in the bottle. Along with the oxygen is the lovely smell of your blue cheese and cabbage that are also in the fridge. Leftover wine, however, that’s best in the fridge.
Near the oven
Do you want to cook your wine? Nope, didn’t think so. The heat will destroy the wine. Even if it’s a cabinet away from the oven the fluctuation in temperature in the kitchen is enough to ruin wine in a day.
On the counter
Are you seeing a trend here? The kitchen is generally the warmest room in the house. While we do want to admire our wine bottles, storing them on the counter, even in a cute wine rack, exposes the wine to light and heat.
Near a window
Direct sunlight is awful for wine. That’s why wine is usually in a dark glass bottle to reduce UV light. It only takes a couple of hours of sunlight to mess up your wine. Even your overhead lighting is too much over the course of a few weeks.
Near a radiator
I’m just realizing that I have a box of wine in front of the radiator in my kitchen. Whoops! Do as I say, not as I do. In my defense, I plan on consuming most of that wine in the next couple of weeks. Again, heat is the issue here.
The temperature in the garage fluctuates throughout the day and especially throughout the year. It’s generally too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Wine should be at a constant temperature all year long. Now if you enclose a spot with an a/c unit, now that’s a different story.
Now I know what you’re thinking, yes, Anna, we know we can’t have our wine in a hot spot in the house, we learned that already. But here’s the other issue with storing wine in the attic, it’s super inconvenient to get to. Wine should be accessible so you know what you’ve got so you’re not drinking wine past their prime.
The Best Way to Store Wine at Home
For wine to be stored properly, it needs to be in a cool, dark place on its side. Wine needs to be stored on its side to keep the cork from getting dry. A dry cork will shrink which allows oxygen into the bottle. These are the best spots in your house for your wine.
The basement, away from the washer and dryer, is the closest you’ll get to an ideal storage environment without building a full-on temperature-controlled cellar. It’s cool because it’s subterranean, never gets too hot in the summer, it’s generally dark, and there’s enough humidity to keep the corks moist (ew, moist). There are plenty of wine rack options that look great.
Wine Fridge is the best way to store wine without a cellar
A wine fridge is a great investment. I would suggest getting a small one if you have a basement for your long-term wines. If you don’t have a basement, then it may be worth upgrading to a bigger one if space allows. Keep your everyday red wines in a wine fridge to keep the temperature perfect for serving too. They don’t take up that much room and can be conveniently placed in the kitchen or dining room next to your wine glasses and wine accessories.
Closets are a great place to store wine at home
I’ve seen whole closet conversions into wine cellars and man am I jealous. You don’t have to go that far, just keep your wine on a rack in the bottom back of your closet where it won’t be exposed to light. Preferably away from your gym bag and stinky shoes.
Pantry- dark? Check. Cool? Check. Convenient? Check. Pantries generally don’t have any running appliances creating heat and vibration. A pantry is perfectly fine for short-term storage or even a year or two.
If you’re really tight on space, designate a drawer for your wine. The wine will still be laid on its side and away from light. Just make sure it’s the bottom drawer so your dresser doesn’t topple over.
Wine Storage Conclusions
Most of the wine we buy will be consumed within hours and days and is at little risk of being damaged by heat, light, or oxygen. For the bottles that will be kicking around for a bit, more care is needed. Special wines should be treated as such. The best way to store wine is in a cool, dark, dry place with the bottles laying on their sides for optimum aging conditions.
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