Wine - How to Properly Store Wine

11:13 AM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

Summer is coming up faster than we know it. Soon, it will be here and the sun will be shining. Shining sun means warmer temperatures. Warmer temperatures mean warmer homes. Warm homes mean spoiled wine. That is, unless you know how to properly store your wines. Most of us are not fortunate enough to have a wine cellar or other controlled temperature environment to store our wines. Closets, pantries, garages and corner of rooms serve as cellars for many people. How do we know if our wines are being stored at the right temperature or in the right way? Red wines need to be stored different from white wines and white wines need to be stored different from champagnes and sparkling wines. What are the rules? There are three main factors to consider when storing wine: Light, Temperature and Bottle Position.
Wine is bottled in dark glass to help protect the wine from UV rays. Some bottles are even coated with a UV protection layer. Sunlight and florescent light will damage wine. Wine that is subjected to UV rays for a period of time will be come light-struck. What happens is the light moving through the wine initiates a chemical reaction producing sulfurous compounds. We are all familiar with the smells and tastes sulphur can produce, rotten eggs, for example. Other chemicals that can be produced are called mercaptans which give off a boiled cabbage or skunky flavor and aroma. All of which are unpleasant. So keep your wines out of the light. If you are unable to store wine in an area that is not periodically exposed to light, wrap the bottles in cloth, block the light source or simply store the bottles in case boxes.
Temperature is an important factor that will influence the quality of your wine. A bottle stored in an area with vastly fluctuating temperatures will age the wine at a rapid rate rendering it spoiled. Imagine the wine heating up and expanding, pushing wine or vapor out the cork, then cooling down, drawing air inside the bottle. It is like the bottle is hyperventilating. Too much oxygen circulating in the bottle will oxidize the wine prematurely.
Keep the temperature of your wine as constant as you can. If possible, do not allow the wine to fluctuate more than 5 degrees F in a day. Try not to let your wine get above 75 degrees F more than brief periods of time, like when you are transporting it home. Heat damaged wines can take on a brown color. White wines turn a honey-amber color and reds turn a rusted brick color. The flavors can range from a bruised apple or sherry taste to a sweet, chemical taste. Certainly not flavors the wine maker had intended you to find. If your wine gets too cold the only real damage you can impart is slowing down the aging process. To ensure proper aging, keep the wines from dropping below 40 degrees F for extended periods of time.
For a collection of varying wines the ideal temperature for storage is 55F degrees. If this is not an option for you, do not fret. What is more important is avoiding the temperature fluctuations so a wine stored at 65 degrees F constantly is much more protected than a wine that varies between 50 and 60 degrees F
Those who are able to store white wines and red wines separately will want to adjust the temperatures for each. White wines should be stored between 47 and 55 degrees F and red wines should be stored between 55 and 60 degrees F
Bottle Position
Most of us know you should store a bottle on its side but what many do not know is that is not always the case. First of all, most wines should be stored on their sides. Red and white still wines have a narrow neck and the cylindrical cork sits snug inside. When bottled, the corks have a very specific moisture content to make this snug fit happen. If a wine is being stored for long periods of time standing up, the moisture in the cork will diminish as the air moved in and out of the bottle and as time goes by. The dry cork will lose its snug quality and become smaller and brittle. This will allow more air to move in and out of the bottle, aging the wine and diminishing its quality over time. When a still wine is laid on its side the wine is in contact with one end of the cork it slows the passage of oxygen back and forth through the opening creating a more natural aging process.
Champagne and sparkling wine are different. The neck of their bottle is slightly angled and the cylindrical cork is forced inside with tremendous pressure. Many people do not even realize that when going in, champagne corks are cylindrical. The shape of the bottle and the pressure used to insert the cork cause the iconic shape we all associate with champagne and sparkling wines. The reason there is a difference between the sparklers and the still wines is pressure. Sparkling wines and champagnes are under a great deal of pressure. We can feel that pressure when we open the bottle. We want that pressure because that is what keeps the bubbles inside. It is this pressure and bottle shape that forms a very tight seal leaving the need for laying bottles down obsolete. In fact, storing champagne bottles upright is better for them. The lack of contact between the wine and cork helps prevent the wine from absorbing any off flavors or aromas from the cork. Corks can be the source of "cork taint" also known as TCA which is a nasty, moldy aroma and flavor that you do not want in your wine.
Standing up sparkling wines is optimal but if you only have a wine rack, laying them down will not destroy your wine. If you do have a wine rack, try to store the sparklers on the bottom, then the whites leaving reds on the top. This will employ the "heat rises" law and keep the most sensitive wines at the cooler level. Using this same concept, if you have a wine refrigerator, store your most expensive wines at the bottom. This way, if there is a power outage, these wines will remain the coolest.
Other storage concerns:
Vibrations. Storing wine in an area where there is vibration can ruin a wine. Areas like in or around a refrigerator, near a washer and dryer or on the side of the house the train runs by subject the wine to vibrations. The vibrations cause the sediment in the wines to stir up changing the taste profile of the wine. Vibrations can also cause oxygen to circulate faster and micro bubbles to form, aging the wine prematurely. For the same reasons, a bottle of wine should be moved and transported as little as possible.
Humidity. It is important to control humidity when storing wine long term but it is something that is difficult to control in a closet or pantry. Too much moisture will cause mold which can penetrate the cork and give a bad taste to the wine. Not enough moisture can dry out the corks. Try to adjust the humidity in an area wine is being stored to keep from any extremes.
External Aromas. Keep wine stored away from chemicals, foods or strong aromas. The breathing nature of wine will cause the odors to be absorbed into the bottle. Storing your wine in a closet with moth balls could give your wine a character you were not looking for.

Luckily, we live in an area where wine is accessible and temperatures are relatively mild. This gives us little excuse to stock up on wines. So take your coats out of your closets and toss the beans out of your pantry. Make room for your new wine collection to enjoy for years to come.

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