The Four Wine Commandments: How to Store Wine

The Four Wine Storage Commandments: How to Store Wine

Corked Wine

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Light
  4. Vibration

Wine Storage Temperature

While there is a ton of documentation out there as to what the “golden temperature” for wine storage is, experts seem to agree the most important factor is limiting temperature fluctuation, ideally to less than a 5 degree swing within a 24 hour period.

50 degrees Fahrenheit – 60 degrees Fahrenheit

Fluctuation: < 5 degrees per day

Wine can safely be stored at from 40 to 65 degrees, but the “perfect” temperature really comes down to how long you plan to store the wine. The aging of wine is actually a chemical process. Colder storage temperatures delay this chemical process, slowing the aging of the wine. Conversely, warmer temperatures hasten the process, aging the wines more quickly.

Serving Temperature: The ideal serving temperature of wine varies greatly by varietal, from rich and bold reds that are generally served in the upper 50s to mid-60s, to whites which taste best served in the upper-40s to low 50s, all the way to down champagne and sparkling which are best in the low to mid 40s.

One time I was served a glass of cabernet sauvignon at a dinner with some friends and it came out around the mid-70 degrees range. Perhaps the exhaust fan from the register at the bar was blowing on the bottle. I thought it tasted rather gross, but was hesitant to send it back or say something. My friend explained the importance of wine serving temperature to me in the following way, and I’ll never forget it. Wine is perishable and expensive, as is sushi; would you say something if your prized sushi roll came out hot?

Pro Wine Tip: When heading for some weekend wine tasting you’ll probably purchase a few bottles. Be mindful when putting the wine back into your car. Areas like Paso Robles and Napa are awfully hot on summer days, when the temperature of vehicle interiors can reach a staggering level very quickly. Wine subjected to temperatures of over 80 degrees for as little an hour can begin to cook, permanently affecting the quality of the wine. Even on spring and fall days, when air temperature might be a gorgeous 80 degrees outside, temperatures inside the vehicle can reach over 120 degrees within the hour!

Many casual wine collectors will store excess wine in closets and garages; often times not climate controlled. Also note the daily fluctuation of temperature in spaces like a garage can be extreme which can have a very detrimental effect on wine, especially if kept in that environment for long term.

At the risk of being persnickety, I wanted to call out one more urban wine storage warning. Lots of people, especially those who live in small condos or apartments, tend to put a wine rack on top of the fridge. This keeps the wine conveniently in the kitchen, yet doesn’t eat up valuable counter or floor space. No harm there, right? Wrong. It’s actually a really bad place for wine to be stored because all of the heat that is being generated from the refrigerator, in order to keep your food cold, is being released behind it. That heat runs up the back of the fridge, especially if it the fridge is tucked into a cubby of cabinets, putting your wine directly in a hot air ventilation path. This essentially slow “cooks” your wine, which is not ideal if you’re at all concerned about how the wine is going to taste.

Wine Storage Humidity

Humidity is the percentage of water vapor present in the air.

The key focus with wine storage humidity levels is to make sure the cork does not shrink or dry out, which can occur if the humidity levels remain too low for an extended period of time. When the cork shrinks or dries out, more air is allowed into the bottle than what is intended. This can oxidize the wine and cause it age much too quickly, becoming more like vinegar, or becoming “corked”. Screw capped wine bottles are immune to this.

PRO Wine Tip: Always store wine on its side or at an angle so that cork remains wet.

Another humidity concern is the deterioration of the wine labels (prized by some collectors) and mold growth; both of which can occur if humidity levels remain too high for a long time.

The ideal relative humidity (RH) for wine storage is 50 to 70

Many casual wine collectors will store excess wine in closets and garages. Typical household HVAC systems are not equipped to maintain a specific humidity level, and as seasons change and humidity fluctuates in these rooms, can wreak havoc on wine collections.

Wine Storage Light Considerations

Sunlight and incandescent light can damage wine over time. It’s important to store wine in an area where it will not come in contact with direct forms of such light. The cardboard or wooden box wine is purchased in is a perfect barrier, blocking 100% of light.

The glass used to make wine bottle can offer some protection from light; both color and thickness contribute in varying degrees. Lighter colored glass (clear and green) and thinner wine bottles typically denote a wine that is of lower value or is intended for immediate consumption. While darker glass (dark green and brown) and thicker wine bottles offer substantially greater UV protection leaving those precious drops of juice better suited to stand up to the rigors of aging.

Wine Storage and Vibration

Beyond sentimental value growing over time, aging wine comes down to creating optimal conditions for a chemical process to take place. Vibration agitates wine which accelerates the chemical process of aging. Therefore, it’s advised to always store wine in an area where prolonged exposure to vibration is minimized. Some people use wood racking which has a natural dampening effect.

Other Wine Storage Considerations

Odors and Chemical: Cork is a porous material and not only lets air into the bottle, but can also let in odors. Note to self, don’t store your prized bottle of sauvignon next to sack of garlic cloves or in cabinets where you store your bleach or other cleaning chemicals. Years down the road, when you finally sit down to an amazing dinner with friends, you’ll be pretty upset if you open your treasured bottle of cab and experience subtle onion notes with a hint of Windex.

Shameless Plug

If you’re in need of a wine storage in San Luis Obispo County, Meathead Wine Storage has got you covered. Our 427-unit facility has redundant and monitored temperature and humidification systems, a 24-hour video surveillance system with LED motion detection lighting, and a backup power plan. These state-of-the-art personal wine lockers are built to ensure peace of mind in customers. Another invaluable benefit clients receive by leasing a locker from Meathead Wine Storage, is the convenience of having wine shipments and/or wine club deliveries made directly to the facility. 

We understand you don’t always have someone over the age of 21 waiting around the house to sign for your next wine club shipment. Even worse, what if your wine club shipment is delivered to your front door and remains there all day in the summer heat until you get home from work? Some of our clients live in states where California wineries can’t ship to and end up timing their vacations around the next wine release date. By accepting wine club shipments on our clients’ behalf, they can come out here to pick them up at their leisure, knowing all the while their wine is being stored properly.

Click here to reserve your wine storage locker, today

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