Everybody loves a glass of wine every now and then. It brings more life and passion to our conversations, and benefits our health too. It is wise to always keep a bottle or two of wine handy just in case a friend pops around in for a catch up, and a sophisticated option to offer in case you’re entertaining new friends. If not a wine connoisseur yet, the question will likely arise at some point soon… How do you keep the quality of wine intact for those occasions? Is my wine going to spoil if it has been on the fridge for quite some time? If so, how long should I wait before I pour it down the sink? How long the taste of wine last if a bottle of wine is already half-consumed?
The answer you need is to understand wine storage properly. Some basic wine science and these four fundamentals which we will explain will help.
When buying wine, you don’t have to consume it immediately. But you have to keep it in an appropriate wine storage area to maintain its flavor.
What is the right way to store wines?
Generally, wine storage is affected by four factors:
- Humidity, and
Different types of wine have different storage requirements depending on its tannin, fruit, and alcohol content.
Wine loves to stay in the dark. The wine’s phenolic compounds react to extreme light creating “wine faults” when exposed to direct sunlight or bright incandescent lamp. Store them in a place least vulnerable to light. That is the reason why wines are in wooden crates or cardboard boxes. They are packaged in tinted bottles when sold commercially. Otherwise, bottles should be wrapped in cloth as an alternative way to protect them from direct light.
Temperature is critical in wine storage. The temperature should be as constant as possible because fluctuations can severely affect its quality and maturity. It should never go beyond 77°CF (24°C) for an extended period; otherwise, wines will get spoiled and taste stewed or “raisin-y.” The temperature should also not be freezing cold that could cause the cork to be pushed out or the bottle to crack. If that happens, oxygen will enter and trigger oxidation. Oxidation has a negative effect on wines. Special wines that are intended for aging need to have a constant temperature for long periods to mature perfectly.
The following can be a guide on proper temperature depending on the type of wine:
- Full-bodied red wines must have a temperature of 63 – 66°F (17 – 19°C)
- Light to medium-bodied red wines at 54 – 61°F (12 – 16°C)
- Dry white wines at 46 – 54°F (8 – 12°C)
- Sparkling wines and sweet wines at 41 – 46°F (5 – 8°C)
Controlled humidity is also very essential in wine storage. Although some wine experts vary in their point of view on the exact ideal percentage of humidity, most believe it should be 75%. Lack of humidity can dry out the cork cover, allow oxygen to enter and fill out the ullage space in the bottle. This will also cause oxidization and spoil the wine. On the other hand, very high humidity can allow molds to grow and loosen the wine labels. Wine labels are essential in its identification and determination of resale value. To monitor humidity, use a thermohygrometer, and install a dehumidifier in case there is a need to monitor and control the moisture inside the storage area carefully. To maintain humidity, a wine merchant and connoisseur, Alexis Lichine, recommended putting on a floor of a wine cellar a half an inch of gravel and sprinkle it with some water periodically.
Lastly, vibration should also be avoided as much as possible in wine storage areas. Vibration has a negative effect on wines. It affects the physicochemical properties and accelerates the natural aging of wines. Keep the storage area away from types of machinery or equipment that might cause vibration. Also, when checking wine bottles, the least movement they receive, the better. Therefore, arrange bottles in a manner that when you take out one, the other bottles will not move.
Avoid potent and strong odors in wine storage areas. These might enter and taint the cork and eventually the wine itself. Therefore, it is good that the facility should have good ventilation and away from sources of musty smells.
Where should I store wines?
Since man has seen the need to store wine, creating the appropriate storage area has evolved tremendously. Generally, the guide to storing wines is to have a place with a cool temperature, away from direct light and vibration. Lucky are the people who have naturally cool house basements. These are ideal for wine storage as long as these are not unnecessarily moist, and there is no direct sunlight that reaches the place. Keep the wines away from refrigerators, air-cons, washing machines, and boilers because they make vibrations, create heat and unstable temperature. All these can spoil the taste of the wine and ruin its quality.
How long do you need to store wines?
People say wines improve with time, but it does not apply to all. Different wines have their appropriate length of storage period. Some wines need to be consumed within 2-3 years upon purchase, while fine wines are excellent for many years. For example, it is alright to store red wines for 2-10 years factoring its acid, sugar, and tannin content. Excellent red wines can last up to 100 years! On the other hand, white wines are good for 2-3 years, but some chardonnays can be aged for more than 20 years. Flavor and value of wines, in general, improve with time, but when kept in inappropriate conditions, the opposite can happen.
Table wines. Table wines are lighter wines which are supposed to be consumed immediately and not for long-term storage. Some red or white wines are classified as table wines. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is 9/10 times safe to drink from the get go. Bottles of table wines sometimes have synthetic or screw-top corks, which indicate that they are not suitable for extended storage. At most, their storage period is up to 5 years.
White wines can be kept chilled and must be consumed quickly or within two months. They must be in an upright position in the storage. On the other hand, a wine rack or a refrigerator can be handy for red wines.
Precious wines. When you buy wines meant for aging, it is good to ask the sommelier their proper storage. Because of their value, wine merchants advise clients on how to properly handle wines. Natural corks are usually used to cover expensive wines. Most of these types come from certain known regions such as Tuscany, Piedmont in Italy, Burgundy and Bordeaux in France, Priorat and Rioja in Spain and Napa Valley in California, USA.
It is advisable to keep aged wines on their sides to keep wine cork moist. Natural cork may dry out through the years and will lead to oxidation of the wine. Wine bottles must be stored that you don’t have to move a bottle unnecessarily to avoid vibration. It is also a space saver. Your wine collection is valuable, invest in a humidifier, especially for wines that are aged for more than ten years. This will ensure that your wine will stay in good shape.
Other tips on wine storage
Here are some more ideas which might help you maximize the quality of your wines:
- Invest in a wine refrigerator or a professional wine locker if you have a good collection of aged wines. With these storage facilities, you will never have to worry about temperature and humidity at all, even for long years to come. Besides, your wine collection probably could cost more than this equipment so you will never regret buying one.
- Re-purposing a cabinet as a wine cellar is an alternative option. If you have a spare cabinet, have it customized as a wine cellarette. There are cooling units for sale that will ensure steady temperature and humidity to your precious wines.
- Label your wines individually. Indicate the kind of wine and date manufactured. Keep the label conspicuous so that you don’t have to move the bottle when looking at the label.
- Never put wine inside a freezer. Frozen wine will cause damage to the chemical consistency of the wine and might cause the bottle to shatter.
- When planning to serve the wine, the temperature must be adjusted appropriately. There are guidelines online on how to do this so that you will be able to serve the wine at the right temperature without affecting the other wines in the cellar.
- To preserve longer leftover wines, pour them in a half bottle to lessen the amount of air exposure of the wine before putting it in the refrigerator.
Collecting wine should not have to be a challenge. It all depends on what kind of a wine lover you are – whether a mere social drinker or an avid wine collector, your storage is important and rest will follow.