How to Store Wine
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
The best place to store wine is in the cellar of your castle, where you can browse the shelves, admire the labels and know that your prized bottles are being kept at a cool temperature and a low humidity. In practice, when it comes to keeping your wine safe and drinkable, you’ll probably have to settle for something a little more practical.
The most important factors to consider are light, temperature and humidity.
Wines should always be stored in the dark and especially away from direct sunlight and fluorescent bulbs. The danger comes from ultraviolet light which can cause “light strike,” giving the wine an unpleasant odour. Dark bottles give some protection but the best precaution is to keep wine where the sun can’t reach it.
Temperature is a bigger problem than light, especially when the mercury climbs over 75̊ Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, the wine can begin to oxidize. Lower temperatures — below 54̊ Fahrenheit — are less damaging but will slow the aging process. The biggest danger though is from temperature changes which can push wine through the cork and suck air back in. Ideally, you’ll want to store your wine collection at around 54̊ Fahrenheit with fluctuations of no more than three degrees a day and no more than five over a year.
Humidity will affect the integrity of the cork. Humidity levels below 70 percent can cause the cork to dry out while high humidity can lead to mould growth on the cork and loosen labels. Storing the wine horizontally will help to keep the cork moist.
It’s also important to store the wines for the appropriate amount of time. Low-budget wines are meant to be drunk immediately and rarely benefit from being left to mature. Whites rarely need more than three years of storage, and few reds will gain more after ten years.
Once opened, storage becomes a little harder and the wine should really be consumed as quickly as possible. White wine should be left in the fridge, tightly corked but away from food with strong odours — such as some cheeses — which can penetrate the cork. Red wines can be left out for a few days without ill effects.
A wine cellar is always the best bet to meet a wine’s storage needs but you can also use an insulated closet or, if you really feel like investing, keep the bottles in a dedicated wine cooler that allows control over temperature and humidity.