There’s no hiding it — we love our vino. Last year marked the 22nd consecutive year of growth for all wine sales in the U.S., according to the Wine Institute. As impressive as your growing Merlot collection may be, you may sometimes ask yourself: am I storing my wine properly?
Whether you’re a very casual drinker or an educated wine connoisseur, here are some tips and tricks that will help you better understand how to prolong the life (and flavor) of your favorite reds and whites.
First things first: Have a plan.
Before you think about how to store wine, consider the following: how much wine do you have and how long will you store it? Do you plan to keep it in your own home, or in a wine cellar? Decide how your wine display will fit into your everyday life.
“The very best wine cellars showcase their finest wines while still finding ample room for everyday choices,” notes Brad McCallum, renovation expert and Houzz.com contributor. “If custom shelving doesn’t fit your budget, try ready-made metal or pine racks. Either way, your wine cellar will be a constant conversation piece every time you entertain.”
Once you plan to store a bottle of wine rather than consume it immediately, you need to pay serious attention to the proper temperature, light and humidity guidelines.
Look for dark places.
Store your wines away from light, including direct sunlight and fluorescent fixtures. Ultraviolet rays can cause wine to become “lightstruck,” a condition characterized by an unpleasant smell.
“Too much light exposure can interact with some of the phenolic chemical compounds in wine and cause faults that ruin its taste,” said Joe Roberts, blogger for One Wine Dude and certified wine specialist, in an interview. “The lighter the wine’s color, and the clearer the bottle glass, the more susceptible a wine is to problems caused by light. Even incandescent light can cause this problem, too.”
Store your wine in a dark and dry place to preserve its great taste. If you can’t keep a bottle entirely out of light, keep it inside of a box or wrapped lightly in cloth. If you opt for a cabinet to age your wine, be sure to select one with solid or UV-resistant doors.
Keep it cool — but not too cool.
If there’s one crucial tip to remember, it’s this: store your wine at the right temperature and humidity!
“People tend to keep wine in the warmest place in the house — the kitchen — but wine doesn’t like high temperatures,” notes Jeff Siegel, wine expert, author and creator of the Wine Curmudgeon blog. “If you want to keep wine for longer periods of time, find the coolest part of your home away from sunlight. Wine cellars are ideal, but if you lack one, use the inside of your closet or even a spare bedroom.”
Aim for 55 degrees, but any temperature between 45 and 65 will do. The humidity level for storing your wine should hover around 70 percent (trust me, you don’t want to deal with dried out corks, which can allow air into the wine or — even worse — mold. More about this below, too).
Humidity tip: Not sure how to measure humidity levels? Stop by your local hardware store and pick up a hygrometer for around $20.
If you’re storing wine upright, you’re doing it wrong.
While it may seem convenient to stand a few bottles above your cupboard to save space, it’s crucial to store corked wine bottles on their sides (and you shouldn’t keep wine in the kitchen, anyway!).
“Upright storage increases opportunity for the cork to dry out, which can lead to cracked or crumbling corks that allow oxygen into the wine bottle, potentially spoiling the wine,” said wine blogger Anthony Beal, member of the American Institute of Wine & Food and the Society of Wine Educators, in an interview. “Wines intended for extended cellaring that are sold in cork-sealed bottles should be stored on their side. This keeps the wine in direct contact with the cork, and keeps the cork moist.”
Isolate the wine as best as you can.
Remember, wine breathes — so don’t store it with anything that has a strong smell. Odors can permeate the cork and taint the wine.
“Strong odors can impact wines that are sealed with corks, which are naturally porous,” says Roberts. “That’s why they are such good closures for wines — they allow a nice, slow transfer of oxygen that helps a wine develop in the bottle over time. So don’t think about storing your wines near those half-empty paint cans, people!”
Store your wine away from garlic, onions, cleaning products, open foods, garbage cans and anything else that may give off a strong scent.
Steer clear of vibrations.
If you think it’s OK to store your bottle of wine in the refrigerator, think again. Not only will you expose the wine to odors, but the vibrations from the compressor can harm the wine, too.
“When storing wine for aging, strive for a vibration-free environment,” said Beal. “Vibration damages the chemical structure of wines by diminishing tartaric acid (a vital element for influencing flavor) and also harms wine by disturbing sentiment, or the wine solids that have settled on the bottom of the bottle.”
To combat these pitfalls, store wines away from large, loud household devices such as the washer, dryer, boiler or rooms that receive frequent foot traffic.
Self-storage is always a reliable option.
If you’re more of a casual wine enthusiast and have between three and 10 bottles in your home at a time, you can rack your wine in a cellar, closet or bonus room — given that these spaces meet light, heat and humidity criteria. You can spend around $100 on a nice wine rack, depending on the size of your space and your personal taste.
If you lack the space or resources to keep your wine collection safe, consider self-storage as an option. Life Storage offers wine storage options that ensure temperature, light and humidity control while providing high-level security and reliable protection.