Centuries ago, wines were stored in caves or underground cellars in France for long periods of time before they were opened for merrymaking. The simple reason is that wine requires the most ideal conditions for storage: dark, humid, still, and cool surroundings. This is obviously not ideal conditions to live in, but for wine, it makes a perfect accommodation to maintain it at its optimal state.
Dark and Cool Places
There are very few of us who have wine caves and underground cellars, let alone on-site rock walls, but that doesn’t mean we cannot store wine properly. First, be aware that both heat and light have the ability to destroy wines in a relatively short period of time. Protect wine bottles by keeping them in dark, cool areas of your home like basements to maintain their ideal wine temperature.
Basements make ideal wine storage facilities because they are dark and cool, and no sunlight penetrates their walls. If basements are not available as an option, keep your wine bottles in cool closets with the correct wine storage temperature levels. Consider putting your bottles in wine coolers or wine storage cabinets that are available on the market these days.
Position Your Wine Bottles Sideways
Cabinets and coolers – which come in various prices and sizes — have internal climate controls for as few as a dozen bottles to more than 600, depending on the make and brand of the cabinet or cooler. Keep your bottles still and positioned sideways in your red wine storage cooler or cabinet. Here are a few guidelines on wine storage before and after opening wines.
Assuming that you have kept your bottles in storage conditions that meet the mentioned requirements, you should be still be aware to place either the cooler or cabinet away from direct fluorescent lighting fixtures and direct sunlight, both of which cause wines to become light struck. This condition is why wines sometimes give off unpleasant smells after they are opened.
Choose Dark Bottled Wines
You may not have noticed this but there are wines that are contained in darker than dark bottles. This means the wines have better protection against UV rays. Some wine bottles have built-in UV filters in their glass but UV rays can be quite powerful enough to penetrate them anyway. If you aren’t able to keep your bottles entirely out of sunlight, wrap them in cloth or a box before storage.
Wines that are packaged in light green, blue or light colored bottles are highly vulnerable to any kind of light. Louid Roederer’s champagnes, for instance, are all wrapped in cellophane, especially its premium cuvee Cristal before being placed in corrugated boxes and wooden crates in basement cellars. Another factor in appropriate wine storage is temperature.
Keeping Wines at Their Ideal Temperature
While all wines must be kept in cool storage with a temperature of 55°F, red wine temperature is slightly higher than that of white wine. That said, you should store your red wines on the top shelf of your cooler or cabinet due to the rising of heat. Another factor to be considered in the storage of red wines is it should be in an environment that is vibration-free. That means your refrigerator should be ruled out as a storage option.
Red wines develop more amounts of sediment at a faster pace than white wines when their environments are disturbed, an obvious case of refrigerator doors closing and opening, rattling or shaking the contents inside. Proper red wine storage dictates that a bottle of wine which has already been opened be recorked or resealed with a stopper specifically designed for wine bottles.
Temperature Must Be Constant
Wine bottles that have been corked should also be stored sideways. Their corks will dry out and enable air to get in and spoil the wines if re-corked bottles remain stored in an upright position. Storing the bottle with the label side up makes it easier for you to spot any possible sediment that may be forming. Keeping wine cooler temperature constant is crucial as well.
If you must keep your wine for long periods of time, like over a year, refrigeration is required, especially for red wine temperature, since even cellars below ground may not prove cool enough. The temperature must not go beyond 75°F (or 24°C) since at this temperature, wine starts to oxidize. If you have various wines, the ideal storage temperature is 54°F or 12.2°C.
A drop in the wine storage temperature of 54°F will not damage your wines but it will slow down their ageing process. This temperature is preferable to that between 45°F and 65°F. Remember that when temperature rises, it forces the wine to go through the cork and cause air to be sucked back in. The more changes occur in temperature, the greater the risk that the wine suffers.
Why Humidity is Important in Wine Storage
Humidity is another storage element that significantly affects how to store wine and keep its quality. A certain amount of humidity is necessary to keep wine with corks from drying out while in storage. Even with bottles stored sideways, the cork still has one side exposed to air. When this happens, oxygen enters the bottle, fills ullage space and causes spoilage to the wine.
Excessive humidity damages wine labels that prevent their identification and decrease their potential value for resale. According to wine expert Jancis Robinson, humidity at 75% is ideal. Another wine expert, Tom Stevenson, recommends that wine should never be stored in refrigerators because they have dehumidifying processes for foods that pose a threat to wine quality.
Consider Wine Coolers
You don’t have to dig a hole in the ground to build an underground cellar since a wine cooler will serve the purpose just the same. Why is a wine cooler the ideal place to store wines? Wine coolers are able to replicate the correct temperature and humidity required for storing wines. Some wine coolers are controlled by a thermostat and have two separate areas for different wine types.
If you’re just starting your foray into the world of wines, decide what type of wine cooler will suit your needs before you go off and buy one. Coolers with single zone cooling have one each of a cooling area and temperature control. While perfect for those who prefer only either red or white wines, it would not be ideal for people who like to have a variety of wines.
Coolers with dual zone cooling have two kinds of wine cooler temperature settings for two different kinds of wines and will be just a bit more expensive than a single zone cooler. Built-in coolers have ventilation that go well with kitchen cabinets and wine purists who prefer only one kind of wine and want bottles of this in a secure and unmovable location.