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Proper Wine Storage

While a nicely aged wine is something to be enjoyed, it does not come without careful thought and consideration. Proper wine storage will make a difference in flavor, color and character, for both the novice wine drinker and the experienced wine connoisseur.

Wine is made from food and is perishable. While a bottle of vodka will not go bad due to its alcohol content, the alcohol content of wine is not high enough to prevent it from going bad. Even those bottles kept for a few months, or even a few weeks, can be positively or negatively impacted by how they are stored.

Storage requirements depend on the type of wine and its intended use. The majority of wines made today are “ready to drink” (especially the less expensive ones). These wines will not improve and should be consumed within 6-12 months of bottling. Red and especially white wines that are made to improve with age will only do so with the proper storage. Here is some basic wine storage knowledge to help you get the most out of your favorite bottle.

Temperature

Temperature is the single most important factor influencing the development of your wine. For optimum storing and aging, wine should be housed in an area where temperature stays at a constant temperate in the 55-60F range, with temperature variation if it changes only by a degree a week. It is ideal for white wines to be stored at the lower limit of this range. There is no exact mathematical formula on how high temperatures affect the aging of wine, but the rule of thumb is that every degree over 55F, ages the wine 1 year faster. The truth is that probably once you “jump” over the 70 degree barrier, the process accelerates a lot faster, perhaps 2 and 3 fold and when you near 80 degrees, studies have shown that the pace is 10 or more times that at 55 degrees. There are other chemical changes that take place in the bottle that also start to spoil the wine.

Humidity

Humidity is important in order to maintain the efficacy of your cork. The cork’s purpose is to keep air out. When oxygen comes into contact with wine, oxidation occurs, which over a short period of time will degrade the wine. A wine bottle stored in an environment where the humidity is 70% will assure that the cork keeps its shape and thus remains expanded, keeping a good seal. If the humidity level is higher than 80%, mold can become a problem, and while not affecting the contents of the bottle, it will deteriorate the label over time. If you plan to resell the bottle, this can be an issue, but if you plan to drink the wine yourself, only if you care about the label’s appearance is there any issue. Too much humidity will not hurt your wine.

Darkness

Store your wine in an area that is dark so that ultraviolet light does not destroy your wine. Darkness is ideal for a cellar. This is the reason why wine is traditionally bottled in colored glass. Wine stored in darkness is more likely to maintain its clarity.

Vibration

It is important to store your wine where it will be free of vibration. Vibration interferes with aging and stirs up sediments that settle out in the maturing process. Wines that are shaken are believed to throw off their sediment. One way to avoid this is to be sure your wine is stored away from everyday appliances.

Aroma Neutral Environment

The cork of a wine bottle is porous, therefore, your storage area should be free from chemical, food and household odors. For example, vinegar has a strong scent that can be absorbed through your cork, ruining the flavor of your wine.

Storage Angle

Wine bottles should always be stored either horizontally, at a 45º angle with the cork facing down, or somewhere in between. This will keep the wine in constant contact with the cork ensuring no air gets into the bottle.

Where to Store Wine Long Term

Long term wine storage is ideal anywhere you can maintain a constant temperature in the 55-60F range, which is dark, free of vibration, and has the proper humidity. If your residence does not have the room for a cellar, you might consider purchasing a wine refrigerator that keeps a constant temperature and humidity. There are a number of manufacturers who make these refrigerators specifically for storing wine. Sizes range for a small one that will hold 20- 750ml bottles, up to 500 bottle storage units. If neither of these solutions works, there are in most major cities and in numerous smaller communities, wine storage facilities that typically charge $1 per month, per case. Some of these facilities even host wine get togethers with the people who store their wine there. The drawback of course is that you need to plan in advance what you want to drink.

After Opening Your Bottle

Do your best to finish an opened bottle in a short period of time (within 2-3 days). This is because oxygen begins to enter the bottle and oxidation occurs, degrading the wine.  An unopened bottle is best stored with a cork or a stopper, in the refrigerator. If it is a red wine, you need to remove it in advance of drinking it to warm it up to a suitable temperature. There are a number of wine preservation systems for sale, but unless you store your opened bottles under a mixture of different types of gas (usually a mixture of argon, CO2 and nitrogen,) most if not all preservation systems are almost worthless, particularly any system where you have to pump the air out of the bottle. After 24 hours, studies show that over 50% of the efficacy of the system is negated. 

Short Term vs. Long Term

Short term wine storage  Keep away from areas of vibration Lay bottles on side to keep the cork moist Keep the wine in a dark place Stable room temperature (55-60 degrees) Drink within three to six months.

Long term wine storage (same as above – 55-60 degrees and free of vibration) High humidity (70-80%)  to prevent the cork from drying out, which lets air in that oxidizes the wine and to prevent wine from leaking or evaporating. Do not store near other foods or liquids with strong aromas so that those aromas are not picked up (such as vinegar!

Custom Wine Cellar Design In recent years, it has become very popular for wine collectors to build custom wine cellars in their homes. When built properly, a wine cellar will maintain the proper environment for long term wine storage. The wine cellar design can be simple to maximize storage capacity, or extravagant to showcase the wine collection during wine tastings and parties. Consulting a wine cellar company will ensure the cellar is built to preserve and protect your wine, with a sealed vapor barrier. There are numerous companies who specialize in designing and building wine cellars, including Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars.

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