Storing any wine - including red wine - at the proper temperature is essential, particularly when you intend to age the wine or hold the bottle for a while. Storage temperature and conditions can help red wine to age gracefully and not develop faults associated with improper wine storage and oxidation.
Ideal Temperature Range for Red Wine Storage
The ideal temperature range for storing red wine is between 45°F and 65°F (8°C and 18°C) with the sweet spot of 55°F (12°C).
- For long-term storage (wines you'll hold for a year or longer), you'll want to pay strict attention to maintaining that ideal temperature of 55°F.
- For shorter-term storage (wines holding for a year or less), it is safe for the temperature to swing closer to the upper or lower ends of the safe spectrum as long as they don't wildly fluctuate between the two.
Storing Red Wine at Temperatures Above 65°F
When you store your wine at too high of a temperature, it will age much more quickly, which is why it's best to avoid storing wine at a temperature above 65°F.
- At temperatures above 70°F, the wine will degrade more quickly.
- In extreme temperatures above 80°F, the wine starts to cook, which removes the subtle flavors and aromas that make wine special.
- Heat can also damage the wine's seal, which will allow oxygen into the wine and cause the wine to oxidize and develop off flavors and aromas.
- The longer the wine stays at a high temperature, the more damage that is done to the wine, which can quickly render it undrinkable.
Temperatures Below 45°F
Storing red wine at colder temperatures actually slows down the aging process. This can be problematic if you are trying to hold a bottle of red wine to the perfect age, and you've stored it at excessively chilly temperatures. You may not know when that wine will be just right because it won't follow the traditional wine aging timetable. Extremely cold temperatures, however, can damage or even ruin the wine.
- Wine starts to freeze at about 20°F (-6°C).
- When the wine freezes and thaws, it can expand and push out the cork, break the seal, or crack the bottle, causing the wine to leak and allowing oxygen in.
- All of these can lead to faulty, undrinkable wine.
- Look for signs of leaking, such as wine under the seal or a sticky cork.
Avoid Temperature Fluctuations
Along with maintaining the proper temperature range for your red wine storage, the most important thing you can do for your wine is to avoid temperature fluctuations. The wider the temperature swings and the more rapidly they occur, the more likely it is to damage the wine. This is because temperature fluctuations cause the wine to expand and contract, which can damage the wine's seal and lead to oxidation. Likewise, if the fluctuation swings to too high of a temperature, it can cook the wine.
Tips to Maintain Red Wine at the Optimal Temperature
They key to keeping your red wine at the optimal temperature is how you store and handle it. From the time you purchase the wine, you can control its temperature. Some tips to help you do this follow:
- Don't buy wine from a shop or store that is extremely hot or extremely cold. If there's no attempt to perform temperature control in the facility where you're buying the wine, chances are you don't want to purchase any there.
- If you're going to be driving a distance, or if you're going wine tasting and plan to purchase wine at multiple wineries, bring something insulated to hold the wine while you travel. Insulated polystyrene wine shippers with ice packs on the outside of the insulation are a good short-term option.
- When traveling with wine, don't put it in the trunk. Instead, keep it in the passenger part of the car where you control temperatures and consider transporting it in a styrofoam shipper.
- Don't leave wine in the car after you've purchased it. Take it right into your home or storage.
- Storing wine on a wine rack in your dining room or living room isn't always the best idea depending on how much the temperature fluctuates in your home. If you live in a region that has hot summer days and you don't have air conditioning, you'll definitely want to store it in a temperature controlled location, such as your cellar or a wine fridge.
- Don't store wine in extremely hot or extremely cold locations in your home, or near heat sources such as a dryer, furnace, oven, or refrigerator.
- Consider purchasing a wine refrigerator for your most significant bottles.
- For large collections, consider adding a wine cellar or storing your bottles in professional storage.
- If you order red wine online, opt for next day shipping so the wine doesn't get damaged in transit, or ask for a hold until extreme temperatures moderate.
Keeping Your Red Wine Safe
The proper storage temperature ensures your red wine ages as it should so you can enjoy it when it is ready to drink. While this doesn't require fancy or expensive equipment, it does require care in selecting how and where you store red wine.