Good wine is an investment, and one you should take proper care to maintain. Most of us, however, go about our lives with little concern for our bottles of wine, using them more as decorative props than vessels of viney goodness.
Your wine will last longer and taste better if stored properly. But what does that mean? You have a miniature wine fridge in your kitchen, but that vineyard in Bordeaux had an underground stone cellar—surely these can’t have the same effect, right?
That’s true for the most part, and wine stored for longer periods is treated a little bit differently than wine that will be readily consumed. For our purposes, we’ll talk about storing wine for the casual consumer or novice collector.
Let There Be…No Light
Keep your bottles away from windows and doors! Glass and cork is a virtually impenetrable barrier, unless we’re talking light and heat. Few things can ruin a bottle of wine more easily than heat and light exposure. This is one reason why wine refrigerators often have darkened glass on the front. Light and heat can do some funky things to fermented fruit juice, so leave the chemistry to the wine makers and keep your bottles cool and dark (think 60s to mid 50s for red, low 50s to 40s for white).
Sideways vs. Vertically
What happens when you wet a sponge? It expands. When it finally dries, it shrinks back up again. Think of a cork as a tiny sponge. You want the cork inside the bottle to stay moist to avoid a litany of catastrophes. The best way to achieve this is to store wine on its side. Otherwise, that little guy gets dry, air gets in, and the wine is ruined. Also, many wines these days are bottled with screw off caps, making this is not as relevant.
If you are storing your wines in wine racks and is intended for long-term storage, horizontal may be the best position because the sediment will be deposited on the sides of the bottle, which will allow clear wine to flow when wine is poured. So, this is the perfect storage for ageing wines.
If the wine is meant for short term storage or dining occasions, vertical storing is preferred. It is the same case with wines that are consumed while young. It will help in easy viewing of the labels. But a negative to this kind of storing is that it will dry out and shrink the corks, which lets in air into the bottle and thereby spoilage of the wine. Also, the wine quality may be compromised because of the pieces of dry cork that crumbles into the bottle when being removed.
Leave it Be, But Mind Its Company
Wine is best left undisturbed until you’re ready to serve. There’s no sense in mixing up all the gases and sediments and disturbing the peace.
But pay attention to what you put around it! Corks, while slowly disappearing in favor of the more airtight screw cap, still allow some scents in. So don’t put the garlic, onions, ginger or peppers near the wine…unless you’re into those kinds of flavors. To each their own!