Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to Store Wine

If you’re new to wine, you’ve probably wondered how to store it.  Today we’ll take a look at ways to keep a bottle fresh after it’s been opened – and how to store an unopened bottle for enjoyment years later.

Open Container
Once a bottle of wine has been opened, air gets in and oxidization begins.  For dry red wines, this isn’t a huge problem if consumed quickly.  You actually decant reds, or let them ‘breathe’ by opening them about a half an hour before serving so that the air can get to the surface of the wine. White wines are handled differently.  Whites do not need to ‘breathe’ or be decanted.  The less air on the surface of the wine, the better.  (White wine glasses have smaller openings for this reason.) Both benefit from correct storage methods.

Put a Cork In It

If you find yourself with a half bottle of wine left over, you have a few options.  You can recork the bottle and place it on its side, in the fridge.  Just remember, if it is a red wine, let it warm back up to room temperature before drinking again.  And, keep in mind, this will only buy you another 2 to 5 days.

Many companies make vacuum pumps where you pump out the excess air and insert a special cork to maintain freshness.

You can also spray inert gases, used by wineries, into the bottle.  This acts as a blanket over the wine, preventing oxidation.

Or you might consider using it to cook with.

Short-Term Storage
If you’ve purchased a bottle of wine and expect to drink it within the next few days, storage is fairly easy.  For red wines, recork and store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.  For whites, recork and store in the fridge. If you will be opening the bottle within a couple of days, you can store it upright.  Otherwise, lay the bottle down until you’re ready to open it.

In for the Long Haul

Depending on the wines, most may be kept 2 years, many up to 5 years, some for up to 10 years. When we start looking at longer periods of time, we enter the realm of the wine collector. Remember, there is a difference between storing wine to enjoy and collecting wine as an investment.

You will need to designate a place for your wine bottles.  There are a multitude of wine racks out there; metal, wooden, plastic, in counter, above counter, on the counter, wine refrigerators, wine pantries, wine cellars, wine caves, the list goes on and on.  Consider how many bottles you will be storing, what kind of wines they are (reds, whites, both, desserts, Ports, Sherries…) and how long you will store them – a month, a year, as an investment.

Lay’em Down
Always put the bottle down on its side, label up, to store.  You’ll notice wine racks are made so that bottles are laying down.  GOOD wine racks have the neck tilted down a bit so that the cork stays wet.  (A wet cork stays sealed in the bottle.  A dried out cork allows air in and that oxidizes the wine.)

Cool & Quiet - Dark & Dry
Regardless of the type of wine, be sure to keep the bottle out of direct sunlight and avoid placing it near a heat source, (including the stove and electronic equipment.) The ideal temperature for wine storage is between 50 to 55 degrees.

To break it down further:
  Full bodied red wines should be served at
   59 - 65 degrees F

  Light red wines should be served at 
   54 - 57 degrees F

  Dry White, Rose & Blush wines 
   should be served at 46 - 57 degrees F

• Champagne & sparkling wines should be served 
    at 43 - 47 degrees F

 Many times you’re told to store a red wine at room temperature.  That means a ‘room temperature’ not above 72 degrees.  And please, never leave wine in your vehicle for an extended period of time.  During a day of winery hopping, store your finds in the trunk. But make sure they aren’t still there a week later!  Temperature fluctuations can ruin a wine.

Also, I’ve seen liquor and grocery stores place wine in the window during a special promotion.  I don’t care what the price is – avoid it!  It’s already ‘cooked’ (ruined) from the heat coming through the window.  Never purchase a bottle of brownish wine.  That’s a sure sign of oxidization. Wine should always be bright, never sluggish-looking.

Also pay attention to humidity.  Too dry and the cork can loosen. Too high and labels can come off. And in high humidity, mold begins to grow.   70% humidity is best.

If you are a white wine lover, you may want to consider a wine chiller, or a small dorm fridge, as temperature can affect flavor.

Do not store wine where it will be moved around or subject to a lot of vibration.  Wine keeps better if it remains still.

White & Fruit Wine Aging
It’s usually suggested not to store white or fruit wines over two to three years.  White wines and fruit wines do not improve with age.  In fact, extended aging can make the deterioration of the wine very noticeable.  Buy these wines to drink and enjoy soon.

Red Wine Aging
Depending on the grape used in the wine, a red can improve with age.  But these are mainly robust, dry reds made from Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, Bordeaux; wines with heavy tannins. Red wines that don’t cellar well, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Grenache – any wine labeled light and fruity.

Bottom Line
Wine storage does not have to cost a lot of money.  Consider finding space in your basement or a spare closet.  This should be adequate for short-term storage – two years or less.  If wine has become a passion instead of a hobby, you might want to go for a wine chiller fridge or a basement wine cellar.  Just keep in mind what types of wine you’ll store and for how long.


~ Joy