How to store your wine has been an art and a science ever since the first grape was fermented. There are those who need to master the most esoteric techniques, for their wine is an investment which must be protected. There are others who just need to know how to preserve the half bottle of supermarket wine they did not finish last night at dinner.
Basic knowledge says that red wines age longer than white, that new world wines generally do not need to ripen over the years in a dark cellar, and that many vintages are best drunk when young. This does not mean that there is not a proper way to handle wine of any kind, both before and after it is opened.
Valuable wine will require special facilities when stored, whether a wine cellar, a cooler, or a specially constructed closet or cabinet. For long periods, humidity should be right at 70%; too moist and the corks may mildew, too dry and they will dry out and allow air to enter the bottles. The temperature should be constant, ideally at about 54 degrees Fahrenheit, with over 75 degrees being too warm and under 50 being too cold.
Wine should be kept in a dark place, away from direct sunlight. Daylight and fluorescent light are also to be avoided. The bottle should be placed on its side and angled slightly downward so the cork will be moistened from within. A dried out cork will not keep its seal, may leak, and will allow the wine to oxidize.
Once wine is opened, it again needs to be protected from exposure to heat, light, and air. You can use the original cork, making sure it is tightly in the bottle neck, but a wine stopper and pump gadget that removes the air from the bottle will do a better job. White wine should be kept in the refrigerator, while red wine should be placed in a cool, dark place. Use the wine in a day or two while it retains its characteristic flavor or use it for cooking.
Once a wine bottle has been opened, the wine will be exposed to air. This can mellow the flavor at first but will change it if allowed to go on for too long. For this reason, you may want to invest in a wine stopper and pump, which will draw off the air in the bottle and keep more air from seeping in. In any case, the bottle should be stopped completely, with its original cork or another stopper, and placed in a dark place if red and in the refrigerator if white. It should be used within two days for best results.
Once wine is opened, it begins to oxidize. This will not harm the flavor for a few hours, but if the contact with air goes on too long, the wine will develop an unpleasant taste. At that point, it is still usable for cooking but not ‘fit to drink’. An opened bottle can be re-corked, but it is better to use a stopper with a pump to draw the air out after closing. Red wine can be returned to its dark corner, but opened white wine does best in the refrigerator. Use the wine within a day or two for best results.
Learning how to store your wine can be simple or very involved, depending on the wine and the time frame. Fortunately, the wisdom of the ages is available for us in books and on the internet.
For those of you that are big o wine, we have some wine cellar racks that you may be interested in. These are not your average cellar racks.