Whether you buy your wine from the bargain bin in the supermarket or are a connoisseur who spends hundreds of dollars for a bottle of your favorite vintage, storing it properly will make it last longer and taste better. There are special wine refrigerators and storage units available, but you can successfully store wine without them just by following a few basic guidelines.
Avoid the Light
Keep wine out of light from the time you purchase it until you serve it. Transport it in the car trunk or in a box or brown paper bag on the floor of the vehicle. At home, store it in a dark, rarely opened cabinet or closet. Even dark colored bottles can absorb UV rays that give the wine a bad smell and taste.
Positions and Movements
Wines with corks fare best stored on their sides to prevent the corks from drying out. Dry corks shrink and let air into the bottle, which spoils the wine. Arrange the bottles with the labels on top so you can easily see any sediment that has developed before you open it. Once the bottle is in the ideal position, avoid moving it. Keep wines you are aging away from ones to be drunk first to avoid jostling or movement. If transporting wine in a vehicle, secure it with other items to prevent movement and keep it away from wheel or engine vibrations.
Temperature and Humidity
If you store white and red wines together, the ideal temperature is 54F degrees. Temperatures lower than that won't adversely affect the wine's taste but will slow the aging process. Wine stored at 75F degrees or higher will start to oxidize. Keeping the temperature constant is also important, so if you anticipate a drastic rise or fall in temperature, move the wine slowly from the extremes to let it acclimate. Corks in wine that is suddenly heated will absorb the wine, and abrupt drops in temperature will suck air into the bottle through the cork. High humidity, around 70 percent, prevents corks from drying out. Higher moisture levels cause mold to grow on corks and loosen wine labels.
Wine corks breathe, so they easily absorb surrounding smells and odors. Keep wine stored in a household refrigerator as far as possible from cheeses, fruits and vegetables to avoid flavor absorption into the wine through the cork.
Avoid Over Aging
Despite popular opinion, not all wines improve with age. Young, lower priced wines rarely taste better with aging, regardless of type, varietal or color. Higher end red wines can be aged for two to ten years to improve their flavors, a process significantly affected by the concentration of acid, sugar and tannins in the selection. The majority of white wines keep well for two to three years, although some vintages of white Burgundy and Chardonnays are aged for over 20 years.
Open Bottle Storage
After you open white wine, it will keep in the refrigerator or three to five days without deteriorating in quality if it is tightly corked and the temperature is constant. Red wine stores best on the counter after opening, securely corked in dark, cool area. Dessert wines like Marsala, port and sherry typically last longer but their longevity depends on the brand and storage conditions.
Cellars, Refrigerators and Other Storage Options
If you are fortunate enough to have a genuine wine cellar in your home, you are all set. Keep a clipboard with the floor plan on it in the cellar to easily locate different wines without moving other bottles, and keep track of what you drink. Wine coolers and refrigerators are great ways to store wine.They have interiors designed to hold the bottles securely on their sides and controls that let you store red and white wines at ideal temperatures. These cooling units also maintain perfect humidity levels to protect the wine corks from deteriorating, shrinking or developing mold.
People with basements or cellars in their homes can easily transform a corner of the room into a wine storage area by setting up shelves or wine racks against a cool wall. Those without such options can create a wine cellar closet by insulating an unused, isolated ground floor closet with Styrofoam and installing racks or shelves in it. The closet door should be insulated as well and installed with weather stripping to create a tight seal to keep out heat.
Where to Buy
Many websites feature a full complement of wine storage options. Some places to look include:
Local stores, such as Home Depot, often carry wine refrigerators. Check with your local wine shop for additional options avaible in your area.
A Matter of Taste
Regardless of which wine storage option you use, always taste wine before serving it to guests. You will occasionally run across a bad bottle, even if it comes from a reputable vineyard and been pampered from the winery to your table.