Wine isn’t just delicious, it’s incredibly diverse. Each different vintage carries a precarious bouquet of textures and flavours – all of which can be influenced by subtle changes in the way the wine is cultivated, processed and stored.
And this doesn’t stop when the wine arrives in our home. In order to get the best out of our wines in the long-term, it’s vital that we store them in the right conditions. After all, there’s little point in buying a fantastic and rare vintage if we’re going to ruin it by storing it incorrectly.
But exactly how should we store our wine to preserve its better qualities? In this article, we’ll examine the problem and explain some of the rudimentary dos and don’ts.
Ways to Store Wine
When it comes to storing wine, we have a number of options to choose from. Some require a greater investment than others, but produce better results. The choice we make will largely hinge on how seriously we take our wine.
If you find that you’re getting through a couple of inexpensive bottles a week, and you’re barely keeping any for long-term storage, then a small rack in your kitchen or dining area might be all that’s required. This solution is inexpensive, with most wine racks costing just a fraction of the price of the wine they’re storing. While such a setup will be exposed to changes in the ambient temperature, if you’re getting through it quickly enough, this will have minimal impact on your wine.
At the other end of the spectrum are dedicated enthusiasts, whose collections encompass many hundreds of different bottles. Such people will require a basement or cellar, or even a dedicated offsite storage facility. While the cost of such a thing might amount to many thousands of pounds, this cost is more than justified if the value of the wine exceeds that.
Somewhere between these two solutions lies a compromise – one which doesn’t consume an enormous amount of room in your home, but still provides your wine collection with the conditions required to last the distance. A wine chiller is an electronically powered cabinet which will maintain a constant temperature, ensuring your wine stays in perfect condition for much longer that it would sitting on a shelf.
The Basic Rules of Wine Storage
When it comes to properly storing wine, there are a few rules to follow if you want to achieve the best possible results. Let’s examine the most common.
Why keep wine cool?
When wine becomes hot, it matures more quickly. If it reaches around 25°C, it will begin to ‘cook’, which will destroy the aromas and flavours we’re looking to preserve. The ideal temperature range for most wines is in the mid-teens – though, as we’ll see, this will vary slightly from one wine to another.
Why keep wine in the dark?
Just as excessive temperature can cause wines to spoil, so too can excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. That’s why many wine bottles aren’t transparent in the same way that, say, milk bottles are. The glass acts like sunglasses for your wine! Sunlight is the worst culprit for this, but even some household bulbs can emit harmful rays that will damage the flavour of your wine – or at the very least, its label.
Why keep wine horizontal?
Horizontal storage helps preserve the moisture level in the cork and prevent oxidation. If all your wines are sealed with screw tops, this isn’t a concern.
What is the best storage temperature for red wine?
Red wine should ideally be stored at a temperature in the mid-teens. However, this recommendation will vary slightly depending on the exact sort of wine being stored. A really heavy burgundy might demand storage at around 19°C while a lighter red like a Beaujolais might be better stored at 12°C.
These recommendations mostly hinge upon the wine’s tannin content – darker red wines contain more tannin, which provides a buffer against oxidation. You’ll therefore be able to get away with storing them at warmer temperatures. This will allow them to mature more quickly.
What is the best storage temperature for white wine?
When it comes to white wine, it’s necessary to cool things down a little. White wines are best kept at around 9°C, but, like red wines, there’s room for variation within the category. A full-bodied Chardonnay, for example, might be kept at around 12°C, while a sweet white zinfandel might be kept at 7°C. If you’re storing sparkling wines, you might go lower still to 5°C.
What about stability?
When storing wine, it’s important to choose a temperature fairly carefully. But rather than obsessing over differences of a few degrees, it’s worth concentrating on keeping the temperature as steady as possible. The cycles of heat and cold that a wine bottle might be exposed to in, say, a garage, can cause it to break down more quickly. This means keeping temperature and humidity constant is essential. It’s in this respect that dedicated wine fridges really shine.
Storing Wine in a Wine Cooler
A wine cooler (or fridge) will allow us to keep our wine protected from ambient changes in temperature and humidity. They’re often used as short-term storage solutions for bringing the wine to serving temperature, but they’re great for long-term storage, too. Moreover, many wine coolers come with two separate compartments, whose temperatures can be independently set. They’re therefore an ideal solution for those looking to store both red and white wines at the perfect temperature, and for keeping wine cool in one compartment before transferring it to the other shortly before serving.