In 2021, Americans drank 1.1 billion gallons of wine. That’s a lot of vino!
But with all that wine flowing, how much of it do you suppose was enjoyed at its best? Most of us don’t get as much joy out of our daily red as we could. And it’s not because we have poor taste. But rather, it’s because many of us don’t know how to store wine to preserve its flavor.
It may be why people ask “does wine have an expiration date”? But stored the right way, most wines stay as delicious as the day you bought them for years to come. Stored the wrong way though, and those grapes will sour in no time.
So to make sure you get the optimal pour every time, let’s take a look at how to keep wine fresh and delicious for your future enjoyment.
Shun the Sun
Dracula may never drink wine, but the two share one thing in common: a strong aversion to sunlight.
It can be tempting to use your bottles as a decorative accent piece until it’s time to pop the cork. No doubt you’ve seen plenty of people do exactly that. But this is one of the worst storage mistakes that you could make.
The UV rays of the sun will cause the flavorful and aromatic compounds in wine to break down over time, turning a once-delectable bottle into a dull, turgid affair.
You’ll also want to store wine away from areas that have a lot of rambunctious activity. So away from garages, workout areas, and laundry rooms. This is because intense vibrations can disturb the sentiment in the bottle and disrupt the processes that allow the wine to age.
Keep Your Wine at the Correct Temperature
After sunlight, excess heat is the next biggest threat to your precious bottles. Different varietals have varying optimal temperatures. But in general, 55ºF (13ºC) is right around where you want to store most bottles.
But bear in mind that while heat is the major enemy, excessively cold environments can be as damaging. Temperatures below 25 °F (-4ºC) can cause a wine to freeze, artificially accelerating the aging process and destroying the compounds that give its flavors and aromas.
And last, whatever temperature you store your wine at, you want it to be as consistent as possible. Swings in the temperature can cause the corks to expand and contract, letting wine leak out or air seep in.
Store Bottle on Their Sides
While screw-tops are becoming more common, most fine wines are still corked the old-fashioned way. And for bottles with corks, you want to be sure to store them horizontally on their sides.
This is because over time, storing a bottle upright will cause the cork to start to dry out. Dried-out corks allow for air and wine seepage, contributing to premature aging or spoiled bottles.
Preserve Open Bottles Correctly
It’s the wine lover’s dilemma: you pop a cork to enjoy a glass after a long day, but then are left will almost an entire bottle sitting open. What to do?
Learning how to store open wine is all about recorking it promptly and tightly. And there are a couple of ways you can do this.
One is to use the bottle’s original cork. To do this, put some wax paper around the cork and slide it back into its original position. The wax paper helps the cork slide in position with a minimal amount of force.
Failing that, a reusable rubber wine stopper is the next best thing. And if you want to go the extra mile, vacuum-seal tools let you seal the bottle tight while removing all the air from the bottle. This helps save the wine because the air is full of germs, spores, and other contaminants that will help spoil the bottle.
Once sealed, how long does open wine last? Only about three to five days, depending on how good of a job you did re-sealing the bottle. So do be sure to return to it sooner rather than later.
Take Special Care of Your Bubbly
Thus far we’ve only spoken about storing still wine. While many of those same rules apply to sparkling wines — store at the proper temperatures, avoid direct sunlight, and so on — they do have a few special requirements.
For instance, so experts will point out the fact that many fine champagnes can continue to age for years after their release. However, those same experts will point out that champagne in magnum bottles (1.5 liters as opposed to the standard 750 milliliters) tends to age the best.
If you’re at all like most people, you probably don’t drink a liter and a half of fine, aged champagne in a single sitting, no matter how special the occasion. So now you need a way to store all this leftover bubbly.
If you’ve gone to the expense of buying a magnum of champagne and aging it for several years, then at that point there’s no excuse not to invest in a champagne preservation system. The best systems can keep a bottle fresh and effervescence for as long as four weeks. So hypothetically, you could host a weekly brunch using the same bottle for mimosas for almost a month.
And if nothing else, it should be a crime to waste good champagne. A preservation system will pay for itself both in reducing waste and eliminating the anguish of letting good wine spoil.
Knowing How to Store Wine Means a Delicious Pour Every Time
A glass of wine at the end of the day should be one of life’s small pleasures. A delight we can savor in our rare, quiet moments.
And few things will spoil that moment like a sour bottle.
That’s why learning how to store wine is essential for both the singular aficionado and the bon vivant alike. But it’s far from the only important quality.
To learn how to select the right bottle and make the most of it every time, be sure to follow all of our wine and dining tips and guides.