Wine Storage Basics

While most wines are consumed within a short period after purchasing, fine wines are often set aside for long-term storage. A wine’s flavor can improve with age, but if handled or stored improperly, it can turn bad. Even if you don’t plan on holding it for long, it’s always a good idea to properly store any wine. 

There are several factors that can affect a wine’s condition, such as temperature, humidity, light, and storage position. 

Wine’s greatest enemy is heat. Not only does a high temperature age a wine rapidly, but it can also ‘cook’ the wine, which results in ruining the flavor. The most commonly recommended safe storage temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which a wine fridge is specifically designed to do. Colder temperatures, such as those in a household refrigerator, are not recommended either. The lack of moisture can dry out the cork, which would allow air to enter and damage the wine. It is also important to maintain consistent temperatures to prevent air from seeping into the bottle, causing the wine to oxidize.

Sunlight can also affect wine by aging it prematurely. This is why most red wines (which are usually held longer before drinking) and even some white wines are produced in dark-colored glass bottles. 

Humidity is another factor to consider, with a range of 50 to 75 percent being considered safe. Extremely dry conditions can dry out the cork, which would allow air to infiltrate the bottle. Very damp conditions can promote mold growth, which may travel down the cork and into the wine, as well as potentially damaging the label.

Storage position is another factor to take into account in order to prevent wine from spoiling. Keeping the bottle on its side keeps the liquid in contact with the cork, which prevents it from drying out and allowing air inside.

Lastly, some consider movement to be a factor in affecting the taste of wine. If you’ve just had wine shipped to you, or if you’ve just purchased wine while traveling, you’ll want to wait at least 48 hours before opening a bottle. Experts suggest that excessive agitation, such as that which occurs during shipping, can disturb sediments and otherwise temporarily unbalance the wine. Allowing the wine to ‘rest’ for a few days gives the wine a chance to settle down. Vigorously shaking a wine bottle is definitely not recommended!

The bottom line is– whether storing wine for the short term or long term, follow the advice above to preserve the flavor of your wine investment.