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Storing wine at home—Wine storage tips for the non-connoisseur

December 17, 2019

Much of the advice I run across for storing wine doesn’t quite apply to me. The guidelines are often geared toward those who are building a wine cellar or purchasing a wine refrigerator or have just invested in some priceless bottle that they’re keeping for posterity. (Most wines are not meant to be kept for extended aging, by the way.)

I don’t need to know how to store the “fine” wines that people age for many years, just the “table wine” (by definition meant to be drunk in the short term) that I brought home from the grocers today. While some of the tips are based on the same ideal conditions, we needn’t be so exacting with the wines we’re not aging. 

Here are some tips for storing bottles you intend to drink (or serve) in the coming months, weeks or days rather than saving for many years: 

Keep the temperature cool and stable.

• Big changes in temperature can cause the wine cork to expand and contract, which means wine can seep out and air can seep in, damaging the wine. Don’t sweat minor temp fluctuations, though. 

• Aim for a cool temp. If the wine gets too hot, it can “cook,” resulting in flat aroma and flavor. (Wine will start to oxidize at temps above 75 degrees F.)  If it’s too cold, it can freeze. 

• Wine experts can get very specific on this point, but for most table wines, a range from 50 to 65 degrees F is given. Experts agree that about 55 degrees F is perfect. 

• So, a cool place is ideal—which is why the wine cellar was invented. But a cool closet will do nicely, too. (Extra points if it’s dark; see below.)

Add a little moisture to the air, if necessary.

• If the air surrounding your wine bottle is too dry, the cork will dry out, and the wine will oxidize. Too wet, and you’ll have a moldy label. Ideal humidity is between 60 and 70 percent, but again, unless you’re storing wine for the long haul, anything between 50 and 80 percent will be fine. 

• If the closet or room you’re keeping your bottles in is very dry, consider a humidifier, or even a bowl of water nearby.

Avoid sunlight.

• Avoid UV light from the sun, which can damage the taste and aroma of the wine. (Now I know why wines are stored in colored bottles.) If you need to keep your wine in a place with lots of natural light, consider wrapping it in a cloth or keeping it in a box.

Don’t shake the bottle. (You probably didn’t need to be told that, right?)

• Wine experts say to avoid vibrating the wine bottle, which can speed chemical reactions and degrade the wine. You wouldn’t want to put a wine rack near a washing machine or where you do your jumping jacks, for example. For short-term storage, though, this isn’t usually a problem. Just avoid shaking the bottle.

So I still had a few questions beyond the basic storage info. You might too, so here’s some other wine storage info I found:

Why are wine bottle stored horizontally?

If your wine bottle has a cork, storing it on its side will help keep the cork moist. But this is only important if you’re storing a bottle for a long time (say more than five years). Otherwise, you might choose to store bottles horizontally to save space (or because they look cool).

What’s so special about a wine fridge?

A wine fridge isn’t just a little refrigerator. It’s specially made to keep wine at the perfect temp and humidity (unlike your regular refrigerator, which is too cold and dry for perfect wine storage). Storing wine in its own little appliance also prevents it from picking up the odors from other foods. 

How do I store my wine once it’s been opened?

Create a tight seal by re-corking the bottle (or use a rubber wine stopper). To recork, wrap the cork in wax paper and slide it into the bottle. A wine vacuum pump, which you can pick up inexpensively, will create a good seal by sucking the air out of the open bottle.

An opened bottle of wine will keep for three to five days in the refrigerator, but the flavor will deteriorate, perhaps noticeably, after just a day or so. 

There are preservation gadgets you can buy to keep your open wine longer—vacuum seals, inflatable corks, needle openers (these keep wine from air exposure in the first place). 

BTW, if you leave wine out and it doesn’t taste great, it’s still safe—and delish—to use for cooking. 

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2 comments

  • Mary

    December 21, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Thanks for this tutorial on wine storage. Even though I knew most of the suggestions already, I never knew the “whys” behind each practice (keeping the cork moist, for example).

    1. Karen Mary

      December 28, 2019 at 5:30 pm

      Glad you found something of interest here, Mary! While researching this, I discovered the little trick for getting the cork back in the bottle!

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