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How to Store Wine at Home

Cultivating a personal wine collection offers a delightful journey into the world of wines, but this journey goes beyond just choosing and buying. Each bottle you select is an investment in flavour, aroma, and potential – but only if you can keep it at its best for as long as possible. 

Are you confident that you’re storing your wine correctly, or are you making ‘pour’ decisions that could compromise your treasured collection? Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or a casual wine lover beginning to appreciate the joy of a well-curated selection, understanding how to store wine at home is paramount.

Preserving your chosen bottles is not about simply chilling them in a wine fridge; proper wine storage is an art in itself, requiring careful consideration of various factors. But don’t worry, it’s an art that can be mastered, transforming your wine experiences from good to sublime. 

This article demystifies the fundamentals of wine storage, helping you to safeguard each bottle’s quality and ensure it reaches its full potential when uncorked. 

We’ll explore everything you need to know about maintaining your unopened and opened bottles at their freshest for as long as possible, turning your home into a true haven for wine.

Pairing wine and cheese may seem like a daunting task, but when you find that perfect match it can be so worthwhile. 
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    What is wine storage?

    Wine storage, in essence, is the careful management of wine from purchase to consumption. The primary purpose of wine storage is to safeguard the quality, taste, and longevity of the wine by creating optimal conditions. It’s not just about “how to store,” but also “how to enhance.” When correctly stored, wine evolves, with its flavours maturing and intensifying over time. Furthermore, the wine storage solutions available are diverse, ranging from simple wine racks to advanced temperature-controlled wine cellars, allowing wine connoisseurs to choose an option that suits their needs and their collection best.

    wines in home wine rack

    8 Steps to help you store wine at home correctly

    Unlock the full potential of your favourite wines with proper storage! By controlling elements such as temperature, light, humidity, and bottle position, you can dramatically improve their quality and flavour. Moreover, with bespoke storage solutions tailored to your wine collection and personal needs, you’ll savour every last drop. This post will empower you with 9 easy steps on how to store wine at home, promising you a richer, more rewarding wine-drinking experience.

    1. Understand the importance of temperature & its affect on wine

    When storing wine at home, understanding the importance of temperature is paramount. Temperature not only affects the rate of the wine’s maturation but also maintains its flavour and aroma profiles. Ideally, wine should be stored at a steady temperature between 10-15°C. Storing wine in temperatures that are too high can speed up the ageing process and spoil its unique characteristics, while temperatures that are too low (such as when stored in the fridge) can halt the ageing process and create undesirable changes. It is also crucial to maintain consistent temperature within this range, as frequent fluctuations can negatively impact the wine’s ageing process and overall quality. Proper wine temperature storage is vital to preserving the bottle’s contents at its best.

    What is the best temperature for red wine storage?

    The best temperature for storing red wine is between 10 and 18°C, with an optimal target of around 13°C. This range helps to preserve the quality and characteristics of the wine while allowing it to mature properly.

    What is the best temperature for white wine storage?

    White wine should ideally be stored at cooler temperatures than red wine, typically between 7°C and 10°C. These cooler temperatures help maintain the wine’s freshness and acidity. However, avoid lower temperatures, such as your typical fridge, as they can dry out the cork and allow air into the bottle over extended periods.

    What is the best temperature for sparkling wine storage?

    Sparkling wine, including Champagne, should be stored at slightly lower temperatures than white wine to preserve the bubbles and maintain the wine’s freshness and acidity. The optimal temperature range for storing sparkling wine is between 4°C and 10°C. You can learn more about the differences between sparkling wine, Champagne and MCC on our blog. 

    horizontal stacking of wines in wine rack

    2. Protect your wine from light

    Light, especially sunlight, can pose a significant threat to your stored wine. Prolonged exposure to UV rays can degrade and prematurely age wine, disrupting its balance and altering its flavour. Therefore, it’s crucial to shield a wine from light during storage, preferably keeping it in a dark, cool place. Dark bottles are commonly used in wine packaging as they provide some protection against light damage. Additionally, specially designed wine storage units or cellars with minimal light exposure can offer an optimal environment for safeguarding your precious bottles. By taking these precautions, you can ensure the quality and longevity of your wines.

    3. Maintain appropriate humidity

    Humidity plays a pivotal role in the proper storage of wine, specifically in preventing the corks from drying out. A dry cork can lead to oxidation, which negatively affects the wine’s quality and taste. The optimal humidity level for wine storage is typically between 50-70%, with a general consensus around 60%. If humidity levels drop too low, the cork can dry out, potentially allowing air into the bottle and spoiling the wine. Conversely, too high a humidity level can foster mould growth, particularly on the cork and label. Therefore, monitoring and maintaining appropriate humidity in a wine storage area is essential to keep your wine in prime condition.

    4. Store wine bottles horizontally

    When looking for how to store wine at home, one crucial tip to keep in mind is the orientation of the bottle. Particularly for wines sealed with a cork, a horizontal position is most beneficial. But why is this? The answer lies in the need to keep the cork moist. When wine is stored horizontally, the liquid inside makes contact with the cork, keeping it moist and ensuring a tight seal. If the cork dries out, it may allow air to enter the bottle, potentially damaging the wine. On a practical level, horizontal wine storage is also very efficient for saving space. Various wine storage racks available on the market are designed with this principle in mind, enabling you to store multiple bottles horizontally in a relatively small area. Therefore, storing wine horizontally combines the benefits of preserving wine quality with practicality for the home wine collector.

    5. Consider your wine's storage duration

    A common misconception in the realm of wine is that all varieties improve with age. However, not every wine is destined for long-term storage. Understanding the intended storage length and choosing an appropriate storing method based on this is vital. 

    For short-term storage, a simple wine rack in a cool, dark place may suffice. Most wines on the market are made to be enjoyed relatively soon after purchase and don’t benefit from years in a wine cellar. However, for wines meant for long-term storage, a more controlled environment like a wine cellar or a specialised wine storage unit is preferable. These spaces can maintain constant conditions, making them ideal for storing wine that will improve with age. 

    The type of wine also plays a part in deciding the storage method. For instance, sturdy reds with high tannin content generally fare better in long-term storage than delicate whites. Hence, understanding a wine and its storage needs is key to ensuring its longevity and optimal taste. You can learn more about the top South African wine grape varietals and their characteristics on our blog.

    How long can I store white wine for?

    The length of time you can store wine for significantly depends on the type of wine and the conditions in which it is stored. On average, lighter white wines can be stored for 1-3 years, while richer whites can last 3-5 years. 

    How long can I store red wine for?

    Red wines typically have a longer storage life with most varieties lasting 2-10 years. However, some high-quality reds and certain dessert wines can last for several decades when stored under optimal conditions. 

    How long can I store sparkling wine for?

    Generally, non-vintage sparkling wines, which are blends of different years, are meant to be enjoyed soon after purchase and can be stored for 3 to 4 years. Vintage sparkling wines, made from grapes of a single year’s harvest, can usually be stored longer, around 5 to 10 years, due to their higher quality. 

    sparkling wine in glass close up

    6. Invest in proper wine storage equipment

    No matter the size of your wine collection, investing in proper wine storage equipment can make a significant difference in maintaining your wine’s quality over time. From wine coolers to wine racks and even wine cellars, there is a range of options available, each with their benefits and drawbacks. A wine fridge or cooler, for example, offers excellent temperature and humidity control, which can be essential for longer-term storage. In contrast, wine racks, while not offering temperature control, are an affordable and flexible solution for those starting their collections. They allow for easy visibility and access to your bottles, and can be accommodated in various spaces around the home. 

    On the other hand, for serious collectors or those considering long-term storage, a dedicated wine cellar could be worth considering. This option, while more expensive, provides optimal conditions for preserving wine and can also add value to your home. When deciding on the right storage equipment to invest in, consider your storage needs (both present and future), your available space, and, of course, your budget. Remember, the goal is to store wine at optimal conditions to ensure it ages beautifully and is ready to be savoured when the time is right.

    7. Plan appropriate storage space for your wine

    Cultivating a wine collection requires careful planning for storage, as much as it demands a discerning palate. The extent of your storage space should correspond with the size of your collection and its anticipated expansion. Bottle shape and size, alongside the condition of your storage area, are pivotal factors to consider. From a cherished few bottles to an expanding repertoire of vintages, various wine storage solutions are at your disposal. Small collections may fit perfectly on wine storage racks in a cool, dark room, whereas larger ones might need dedicated wine cellars or climate-controlled wine fridges. 

    Remember, wine craves isolation from strong-smelling substances due to its ability to absorb odours, which may alter its taste. Stability in the storage environment is equally critical to minimise temperature fluctuations and vibrations which can disrupt the natural ageing process and lead to accelerated oxidation. An organised storage system, perhaps sorted by type, region, or age, will keep your selection easily accessible and beautifully presented. A well-planned wine storage space not only maintains your wine’s quality but also simplifies management and elevates your wine tasting experience.

    red wines in wine rack

    8. Regularly check your wine

    Even after perfecting how to store wine, it’s crucial not to neglect the stored bottles. Regularly checking your wine ensures that it remains in optimal condition, ready for when you decide to open it. Look for signs of spoilage or damage such as seepage, which could indicate a failing cork or too high storage temperature. Mould on the cork or bottle might suggest overly humid conditions. Moreover, an unexpected change in wine colour, particularly for white wines which may turn darker, can signal oxidation. When you encounter these signs, don’t panic. If it’s a temperature issue, adjust your wine cellar or wine fridge settings. If the problem is related to a specific bottle, isolate it from the rest to prevent potential spread of mould, and consider opening it sooner to check its condition. Remember, wine is a living product that evolves over time, so regular checks are part of the process of ensuring your collection remains at its best.

    Bonus: How to store open wine?

    Storing open wine requires a few extra precautions to maintain its quality. And ensure that it is drinkable for as long as possible. Here are some helpful steps to storing open wine.

    Firstly, always reseal your open wine bottles tightly with the original cork or a wine stopper to keep air exposure to a minimum. Regardless of whether it’s red or white wine, it’s best to keep your open wine in the fridge. The cold temperature slows down the oxidation process, helping the wine maintain its flavours and aromas for longer. Unlike unopened bottles, open wine bottles should be stored upright to minimise the wine’s surface area exposed to air.

    Even with these measures, open wine doesn’t have a long shelf life. Most wines will remain enjoyable for about 3-5 days after opening. Some fuller-bodied wines might last a bit longer, but it’s best to consume them as soon as possible to enjoy their optimal taste. You can always whip up a cheese board with some interesting wine and cheese pairings to use up some leftover wine.

    If you frequently find yourself with leftover wine, you might consider investing in a wine preservation tool like vacuum pumps, inert gas preservers, or wine preservation systems for longer shelf life.

    Remember, every wine is different and some may deteriorate faster than others after opening. Use your senses to judge— if the wine has developed an off smell or flavour, it’s best not to consume it.

    Final thoughts on how to store wine properly

    The journey of wine from vineyard to glass is an intricate dance of nature and craft. The final, and often overlooked step, is how you store it at home. Proper wine storage is paramount in preserving the quality and enhancing the taste of your treasured bottles. It’s about understanding the delicate balance of temperature, light, humidity, and positioning, along with the intricacies of your own collection.

    The 9 steps we’ve discussed provide a roadmap to optimise your wine storage practices, no matter the size of your collection or the uniqueness of your storage situation. Remember, every bottle of wine has a story, and how you store it can contribute to that narrative, adding to the pleasure of each sip. 

    For more insights on the world of wine, continue your journey with us by visiting the Stettyn wine blog where we cover everything from red wine and food pairings (including wine & cheese pairings) to wine grape varieties, and much more. 

    If you’re looking to start or add to your wine collection visit the Stettyn wine shop. Let’s raise a glass to the art of wine storage!

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