10 days is all it takes for a perfectly fine wine to go from bright and flavorful to murky and bitter with improper storage. The good news is that wine storage doesn’t have to be all that complicated to keep your wine in great condition.
Below are 20 simple tips that can help you master the art of home wine storage, without any tools or gadgets. You can use these tips whether you only mean to store your bottles for a few weeks or if you plan to allow them to lie down for a few years.
Lighting Do’s and Don’ts for Home Wine Storage
The easiest improvements you can make to your wine storage routine happen to involve lighting. Below are four things to remember if you want to keep your wines in great condition.
Do Store Wine Away From Sunlight
Sunlight can create “faults” in wine. Faults are unpleasant flavors or scents in the wine. White wines are the most at-risk and should never be stored in direct light of any kind, even if their bottles are designed to reduce the effects of sunlight on the wine.
Do Reduce Your Wine’s Exposure to Artificial Light
Sunlight isn’t the only type of light to avoid. All sources of artificial light can also produce enough UV light, radiation, and heat to interact with the compounds in your wine. This interaction speeds up the aging process and can even cause the wine to break down. Incandescent light bulbs are the worst for wine, followed by fluorescent.
Do Switch to LED Lighting
LED lighting is the best light source to use for any wine storage area. You can even get an LED replacement for the bulb in your fridge that will help protect your wine, food, and increase your energy efficiency.
Don’t Store Wine in Your Pantry
First and foremost, storing wine uncovered in your pantry for more than a few months will result in a lot of exposure to light that it really should do without. This is especially true if your pantry opens up to a sunny window or you happen to leave the light on overnight.
Beyond light concerns, pantries are also often located near the warmest room of the home: the kitchen. That heat can also contribute to the degradation of your wines.
Temperature Do’s and Don’ts for Home Wine Storage
Temperature is the single most significant factor when it comes to wine storage. It only takes a single exposure to high temperatures to ruin a bottle of wine. Conversely, spending too long in cold storage can have the same effect. The following four guidelines should help you know where to store your wine no matter what the temperature outside or in your home happens to be.
Don’t Store Wines at or Over 32°C (89.6°F)
Storage of any wine at or over this temperature for 10 days or more will result in fewer tannins in the wine, changes in color, and potential changes in flavor. Wines left in the heat tend to have an increased bitter flavor, though they may also have lower astringency in the case of high tannin wines. These effects are irreversible.
Do Store Wines at 10°C to 14°C (50°F to 57.2°F)
The average home refrigerator hovers at about 38°F (about 3.3°C). While this low temperature can preserve wine, it does not allow for the wine to develop and become a more robust version. To age a bottle of wine in the best way possible, it should be kept at 10°C to 14°C (50°F to 57.2°F). This temperature allows the wine to age slowly in a way that helps prevent the wine from developing faults.
Don’t Allow Temperature to Fluctuate
Refrigerators can fluctuate in temperature as much as 15% in either direction daily. This is why a conventional refrigerator is never the best place to store wine long term. A specialized wine storage fridge, on the other hand, typically fluctuates less than 5% of the overall temperature.
Fluctuation in temperature can affect the development of wine if the difference is large or outside of the ideal range. However, the greatest problem with constant or quick temperature fluctuations is that they test the wine’s packaging and may lead to deterioration, leaks, or cracks.
Do Choose Cold Over Heat
If you have a very warm home, with temperatures constantly over 75F, do keep your wine in the refrigerator if you have nowhere else that is relatively cool. Cold may not be optimal, but it won’t damage your wine as hot temperatures can.
Humidity Do’s and Don’ts for Home Wine Storage
Of the four main components of successful home wine storage, humidity may be the least important for most households. This is because careful humidity control is more or less for the health of the cork rather than the direct benefit of the wine itself.
Don’t Submerge Your Wine in Water
While some wines are aged underwater in the sea or ocean, this isn’t ideal for home storage. If, however, your basement happens to flood or your wine ends up underwater for another reason, there are a few steps you can take to save your wine.
First, you should retrieve the bottles as soon as possible. If a bottle remains submerged in water of dubious quality for three days or more, it may be irreversibly damaged. Second, you’ll want to treat the cork and neck of the bottle with a mold and mildew control spray, such as Concrobium. Let the bottles dry.
Do Introduce Humidity in Dry Environments
If your home is too dry, consider setting up a passive humidifier near your wine. All you need to do is place a bowl of water nearby. Over time, the water will evaporate into the dry air. This method won’t give you quick results, but it can boost air moisture in the immediate area.
Don’t Store Your Wine in Exceptionally Humid Environments
If your home is too humid or the area where you store your wine has been affected by mold and mildew due to the humidity, it may be too hot to store your wines there. If the area is somehow both cool and humid, you may want to start collecting silica gel packets and placing them nearby or invest in a more formal dehumidifier.
Do Pay Attention to Humidity For Long Term Storage and Cork Health
If you plan to store wine at home for a year or two with low humidity or high humidity, this shouldn’t cause too many problems. It’s only when you start looking at spans of five years of more that humidity becomes an issue.
Humidity should, ideally, be around 55 to 60% in the area where wine is stored. This is high enough to prevent corks from drying out or become stressed. It’s also low enough that the corks are not likely to start breaking down due to microbial growth or other natural processes.
Storage Do’s and Don’ts for Specific Wine Types
Some wine storage rules are specific to a certain type of wine. For example, the same rules for table wines do not apply to investment wines.
Do Drink Your Table Wines and Box Wine
Table wines are not meant to be aged whatsoever, it is intended to be consumed within a few days or weeks from the time of purchase. The same goes for wine in a box. Store these in the refrigerator however you want to and drink them within that short time-frame.
Do Keep An Eye on Wines With Natural Corks
If you are storing any type of wine for a few months or a few years, do make time to check on them occasionally. Inspect the environment and the corks. Check to off colors, smells, or sediment. While nothing is likely to go wrong in such a short time, this can help you prevent the worst situations in case of some flaw or defect.
Don’t Allow Aging Wines to Be Disturbed
While you should schedule time to check on wines kept at home, for the majority of the time they should be put away and allowed to age undisturbed. It’s also important that all of your aging wines are stored well away from vibrations. This means in an area away from dishwashers, washing machines, and other sources of motion.
Do Invest In a Home Wine Refrigerator for “Investment” Wines
Wine that is meant to be aged is meant to do so slowly over several years at just the right temperature and humidity level. It is meant to do this in a dark, quiet place where it can be still and focus on transforming itself.
If you invest in a bottle of wine and intend to let it lie for more than five years, you will need the right equipment to keep it from going off, aging too quickly or developing faults. However, if you intend to store it for only a few weeks or just a year or two, impromptu storage is just fine for young wines.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Ad Hoc Wine Storage
Sometimes you are gifted a bottle of wine that you aren’t quite sure what to do with, or you suddenly find yourself wanting to save a few bottles for a special occasion. The following four tips will help you make the most of what you have on hand.
Don’t Store Bottles Upright in the Refrigerator Door
There are a few levels of things going wrong in this scenario. First, you have the movement of the refrigerator door. You want to keep your wine as still as possible until you drink it. Second, wine bottles should be stored horizontally for best results. Third, refrigerators are too cold for proper wine development.
If you must store wine in the fridge, or you’re chilling wine you’re planning to drink soon, you should at least keep the bottles still and position them so that any sediment is distributed evenly. A good way to do this on a flat, glass refrigerator shelf is to lay your bottles on a silicone pot holder or a folded kitchen towel.
Do Store Your Bottles of Wine Horizontally
This can’t be said enough. If you do plan to store your wine for any more than a few months, the bottles should be positioned so that wine covers the inside of the cork. This can help prevent air from getting into the wine and other changes that can happen over long periods.
Do Store Your Wine Bottles in a Clean Environment
You must store your wine in a clean, dry (no standing water) environment. This can help prevent bacteria, mold, and insects from contaminating your wine.
Do Wrap Bottles in a Layer of Moisture
Let’s say you want to set a few bottles aside but aren’t able to invest in a home wine cooler. In this scenario, the best thing you can do is find the coolest spot in your home that is also still and dark. Then you should find a solid container with a loose-fitting lid.
To the container, add a layer of clean, damp cloth. A thin kitchen towel or old dress shirt will work. This can add a small amount of ambient humidity to a dry environment. Add your wine bottles, making sure they are positioned horizontally and stable. Place the lid on top, making sure to leave it loose, not locked into place. The inside of the container should stay slightly cooler than room temperature.
Home Wine Storage is All About Timing
How you store your wine at home depends largely on when you intend to drink it. For short term situations, a home refrigerator and horizontal storage are best. For up to a year, a cool closet and a little prep can work just fine.
Long term storage is trickier, but only to the point you want it to be. If you invest in wine that you want to age yourself, you should invest in the equipment to do that the right way. For either situation, long or short term, the 20 do’s and don’ts of home wine storage mentioned above should help you store any wine for any practical duration.