Guide To Storing Wine

Learn about how to best store your wine at home

Wine bottles in a wine rack

Wine is an amazing alcohlic beverage. It's alive and changing all the time, and it's possibly the most nuanced and complex beverage you can enjoy. 

Most wine is consumed within just a few hours of buying. Winemakers produce the wine to be consumed young, specifically within one to three years of being bottled. So even if you don't drink a bottle of wine on the same day you purchase it, there's a great chance it was not meant for long term storage and should be consumed in its youthful state.

Wine is more easily damaged than most other drinks, so proper storage will ensure that your wine is performing its best when you open it. Poor storage conditions can adversely affect your wine experience. In this post, we will give you storage tips for all different types of wine and outline common mistakes to avoid.

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How to Store Wine

Wine being chilled in an ice bucket

So you purchased a few bottles of wine, but aren’t planning on drinking it quite yet. Where do you keep it? If you're like most people, it goes on the top of your refrigerator or in the window sill. Unfortunately, these are two of the worst possible places that you could keep your wine. 

Wine is affected easily by three things: heat, sunlight, and temperature. In a windowsill, the sun shining on a bottle will warm it, and eventually, the heat can cook out the more nuanced flavors. The top of the refrigerator is also warm from the motor that keeps the contents inside cool, and can, once again, cook your wine. Even room temperature is too warm for serving red wines (see our temperature guide), so finding a place for storage should make it cooler and quicker when you are ready to open the bottle.

Here are some of the best places for short term wine storage in your house:

Inside the refrigerator - Cool temperatures slow down the aging process of wine, so the inside of your refrigerator is perfect for short term storage. And it saves you on having to chill your whites before opening, they're already cool! 

A Wine Cooler - No room in the fridge? A passive place to keep your wine could be in a cooler with a freezer pack or some ice. The storage temperature for aging wine is typically between 51°F-59°F, so lowering the ambient temperature in an insulated wine cooler could be a good (and mobile) option for some wine lovers. 

A Wine Fridge - A dedicated wine refrigerator is a perfect place to store and cool your wines if you happen to have one on hand. 

A Cool Closet - A closet or basement that receives little to no sunlight and maintains a consistently cool temperature will be your next best option.

Common Mistakes

Don't put your wine in the freezer for a long period of time! This can freeze the water in the wine and push the cork out or even break the glass. 

Don't leave your wine in a bright window.

Don't store your wine on top of the refrigerator. 

Fun Fact

Most people serve red wine too warm, check out our temperature guide to make sure you are serving at cellar temperature and not room temperature.


Once a Wine is Open

Sometimes you end up with half a bottle, how should you store it? There are plenty of options for making your wine last a day or two after it is opened. Oxygen is the enemy in this situation. For the same reason that you use a decanter to aerate a wine when it's tight, you want to limit the exposure of oxygen to the wine. 

Storing it upright (as opposed to horizontally) with the cork in the top will limit the surface area exposed to the oxygen and slow the degradation of the wine. 

Transferring the contents to a half size bottle can also help minimize the amount of wine exposed to oxygen.

Wine stoppers are available at many wine shops and online locations and are a good step up from simply using the cork. 

A Vacu Vin (or other similar systems) use a small pump and a special stopper to remove some of the oxygen from the bottle. These can add an extra day to the life of your wine over shoving the cork back in.  

The fanciest option is a Coravin (or similar) system that accesses the wine using a needle and pumps small amounts of inert gas as wine is poured through it to replace what is being taken out. Natural corks are resilient and will reseal after this process. The biggest issue with this system is that it is expensive. If you are a collector with many older wines it could be a worthwhile investment, but for most wine drinkers this is overkill.

Why Store Wine Long-Term?

Quite simply, old wine that has been stored correctly can be an incredible treat for any wine lover. As the wine matures (under the correct conditions) the flavor compounds, phenolics, and acidity meld together to add new flavors that weren't present in the wine's youth. Tannins combine with other chemical compounds in the wine and settle out as sediment, this leaves a wine that is less astringent and a more cohesive whole. The term typically associated with aged, fine wine is "balanced," which means that no aspect of the wine stands out over the others.

Some wines do age better than others. Top tier aged Bordeaux and Burgundy are some of the most sought after, and expensive, wines on Earth, but even these have periods where they are not as good. Pinot Noir (Burgundy) tends to go through a phase in the middle of its aging process where the flavors are muted and do not display the complexity that comes in old age.

It should be noted that aging wine is unpredictable even under the most closely controlled circumstances. You are subject to the variation in vintage, the smallest changes in storage conditions, and more. It's uncertain if the wine you open will still taste good at all.

Fun Fact

Wine should be store horizontally. This keeps the cork moist from the inside, which protects it from drying out and allowing too much oxygen in or leakage.

Types of Wine Storage

So you splurged and have some bottles of wine with the right structure, tannins, acidity, and provenance to age. How do you store it correctly to protect your investment? 

In longterm wine storage, the most important factor is consistency. Temperature swings can prematurely age your wine, so to store bottles at the ideal temperature requires either refrigeration or a stable, underground environment. 

Wine should also be stored away from direct sunlight. Seasonal temperature fluctuations from the sun can damage wine, and the UV rays can adversely react with certain chemical compounds in the wine (this is especially true of white wines). 

Humidity is another aspect that is absolutely critical in a well-outfitted wine storage area. While there are various theories about what humidity level is the best for wine bottles, all experts agree that it is imperative that the cork doesn't dry out. Keeping the cork moist will protect the wine from oxygen and the cork from leaking.

Below are a few of the most common (and best) options for long term wine storage:

Professional Storage: The most hands-off storage solution for wine collectors is professional wine storage. These storage locations will store wine bottles in verified conditions primed for resale at auction. While it is expensive you can be sure that your wine stash is kept at a constant temperature with an up-to-date cooling system that is constantly monitored. If you view your wine collection as an investment, professional storage is a must. 

Wine Cellars: More and more aficionados are building wine cellars at home. This is another expensive option that will protect your wine for the long haul but will need professional installation in almost all cases. Many French chateaus are blessed with natural wine cellars that regulate temperature without much help, but elsewhere for a cellar to be truly effective it must be deep enough underground to stave off large ambient temperature variation and be incredibly well insulated. 

Wine Refrigerators: Refrigerators are an easy entry into long term wine storage as they come in sizes that will fit in any household for a few hundred dollars.

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Sparkling Wine
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Join Firstleaf to taste delicious wines from all over the world and learn more about these grapes. The club has featured amazing examples, take the quiz to get the pairings for your individual palate.

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