You’ve picked the perfect Bordeaux and you’ve let it age for a couple of years (or maybe just a couple of days—we’re not judging). But when you open the bottle of wine, you’re disappointed.
The problem might have more to do with your wine storage technique than your taste in full-bodied red wines. Where you keep your wine bottles can affect how your next glass tastes. To get the best from every sip, follow these five recommendations for storing your wine collection.
1. Keep It Cool.
If you pay attention to one tenet of wine storage, it should be this one.
“Temperature is the most important factor to consider,” said certified sommelier Rachel Voorhees, director of education at Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA.
Voorhees advises that the ideal temperature range for wine storage is between 45 degrees and 65 degrees, with 55 degrees being close to perfect.
So if you are currently keeping wine bottles in a rack on your kitchen counter, it’s a good idea to move them to an area that doesn’t experience temperature fluctuations. Avoiding temperature swings, which can cause the wine to expand and contract, is perhaps more important than achieving the perfect temperature.
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2. Maintain Proper Humidity.
“If the humidity is too high, mold can grow. If the humidity is too low or the environment is too dry, corks can crack, allowing air to leak into the bottle,” Voorhees said.
So consult your hygrometer—uh, wait, you don’t have a way to measure humidity levels in your home? You should be fine if you avoid problem areas like dank basements, spaces near water heaters or, once again, the kitchen.
3. Stay Away From Light.
Resist the temptation to put your bottles of wines on display. Exposure to direct sunlight can disrupt the natural aging process and change the taste of your bottle. That’s why winemakers have traditionally used tinted glass bottles, but it really won’t help counteract longterm exposure to light.
“Light, especially UV rays, can prematurely age and degrade wine,” Voorhees said.
Instead, choose a dark place that’s not close to any windows, such as a cabinet or a low shelf. If you don’t have any dark spaces available, wrap your bottles in cloth to block out the light.
4. Lay Bottles on Their Sides.
While you’re scoping out the perfect location for your wine, don’t forget one of the easiest but most important tips: Store bottles on their side, not standing up.
“Wine is ideally stored on its side so that the liquid comes in contact with the cork, keeping the cork moist,” said Mark Aselstine, proprietor of the Uncorked Ventures wine club.
What’s the problem with a dry cork? Without sufficient moisture, your cork might crumble into the wine, which isn’t a fun cleanup job, Aselstine said.
Use a wine rack to store bottles in the correct position. The one exception is bottles with screw tops, since they do not have corks to worry about.
5. Use Dedicated Wine Storage.
If you’re building a collection of wines or you have a few special bottles that are aging, consider purchasing a wine fridge that automatically sets the correct temperature, humidity and exposure to light.
Wine lovers who own large collections but lack enough space at home for a dedicated wine cellar, should seek out self-storage facilities that have dedicated wine storage.
“If you spend money on wine, whether it be for short- or long-term storage, it’s best to protect that investment in the best way possible,” Voorhees said.