Wine Storage Basics
For thousands of years, a lot of passion has gone into making, storing and drinking wine. The earliest traces of wine have been found in Georgia, Iran and Greece – from about 6000 to 8000 years ago!
Wine aficionados are quite particular about how wine is stored. This is because various factors such as temperature, exposure to sunlight and humidity affect the final product. Indeed, it is quite disappointing to have a fine, expensive wine go bad just because it was not stored properly.
In this post, we will learn about wine storage basics without getting too pedantic and without spending more than you have to.
Where is the best place to store wine?
First of all, let's talk about where not to store wine. Places such as the kitchen, laundry room and other rooms with high temperatures are a big no. Likewise, a garage without temperature control is out of the equation as temperatures may fall to sub zero degrees in the winter.
The basement is usually suitable for wine storage, unless it is too damp in there. If this is the case, it is wise to invest in a dehumidifier.
An unused wardrobe section or closet can also double up as a makeshift wine ‘cellar’. Still, it is hard to address parameters like temperature and humidity in closets and basements.
In my opinion, a wine cooler or refrigerator is the ideal place for storing wine.
An undeniable advantage with a dedicated wine cooler is that wine is stored at serving temperature – so you don’t have to chill it separately before consuming. All factors such as light, temperature, humidity etc. are taken care of. Moreover, a wine cooler looks quite stylish and elegant in almost any sort of setting; be it an office or a drawing room.
Even most entry level wine coolers have panels with UV protection. If you place it in a cool area, it wont consume too much energy and will keep the power bills down. Also, wine coolers come with a lot of convenient features such as dual zone cooling (for red and white wine).
Having said all that, wine refrigerators/coolers may not be perfect for every collector. They have limited space – it is hard to fine a wine cooler that can accommodate more than 80 bottles. Most can hold just about 12 to 32.
If you plan on gathering a large wine collection and are considering long term storage, then it is advisable to build a wine cellar. This option is only for very serious wine enthusiasts as a dedicated walk-in cellar can cost thousands of dollars.
Excessive heat can literally ‘cook’ a wine. This destroys the aromas and flavors.
The recommended temperature for storing wine is between 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 to 18.3 C). 55 Fahrenheit (12.7 C) is considered to be just about perfect.
Anything higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit causes the wine to age faster than is desirable.
Just like heat, very low temperatures are also harmful to wine. It is recommended that you do not store wine in a normal food refrigerator for a prolonged time (> 2 months) as the temperature is well below 45 Fahrenheit.
Low humidity in refrigerators can cause the corks to dry, resulting in seepage of air into the wine. As we all know, wine spoils quickly as it comes into contact with air.
Freezing temperatures can cause the wine to expand and the liquid may push the cork out. This usually happens when a person wants to chill a few bottles of wine quickly, puts them in the freezer and forgets to remove a bottle or two.
Rapid changes in temperature are not good for the wine. The liquid may expand and contract; this may lead to the cork being pushed out. If the cork is loosened, air seeps into the bottle.
Hence, it’s not just important to store wine at the right temperature; consistency of temperature also matters a lot.
Wine bottles are tinted for a reason, to act like sunglasses for the wine.
Sunlight, especially UV rays, can degrade wine very quickly. Sunlight causes the wine to age faster than usual. So... proper lighting conditions are of great importance for effective storage of wine.
Wine should be stored in a dark place. Please note that even fluorescent light bulbs emit a small amount of UV rays. While this may not damage the wine itself, prolonged exposure can fade the labels.
Even if storing wine in a wine cooler, it is better to avoid direct exposure to the Sun’s rays.
70% humidity is considered ideal, but anywhere 50 to 80% is quite alright. If the wine is being stored in an extremely dry environment, a desert for example, the corks may dry out and air may pass through and into the bottle.
If you live in a place that experiences extremely dry weather, placing a pan of water near the storage area can help elevate the humidity a bit.
On the other hand, extremely damp conditions do not affect the wine itself (as long as it is sealed perfectly), but can harm the labels. A dehumidifier can be used to regulate humidity in such conditions.
Humidity becomes even more crucial a factor if considering long term storage. It is best to adopt a no-compromise approach for long term storage. This means investing in a proper wine cellar with temperature and humidity control.
Not only is horizontal racking an efficient way to utilize space, it also prevents the corks from drying out as the liquid remains pushed against them. This is not required if the bottles have screw-caps or plastic corks instead of the traditional wooden corks.
Apart from positioning, vibrations are also said to affect the flavor of wine. Vibrations may speed up the chemical reactions in wine. Too many vibrations can prevent a wine from ‘settling’ and give it a gritty taste.
True wine enthusiasts are known to worry about even minor vibrations caused by electrical equipment, such as a wine refrigerator with compression cooling technology.
Minor vibrations are not a problem unless storing for multiple years, in which case there is no better alternative that a full-fledged wine cellar.
Hopefully, this post has cleared up some of your concerns about wine storage basics. We have a lot of detailed information on wine coolers and just about everything wine related. So feel free to look around the site.
Wine Fun Fact: Drinking red wine in small doses is better for you than not drinking at all! The resveratrol in red wine is known to fight cancer and protect the body against heart disease. Young red wines are better than older ones.