Few other things get better with age like wine does. A few years in the cellar can transform a great wine into something beautiful and valuable. But that’s only if you take proper care of your bottles during their dormant years. Aging wine isn’t as simple as stuffing it into your closet and checking back in a decade; you must make sure that the conditions are right for wine storage, otherwise your wine might not age as well as it could and might even spoil.
So what are the proper wine storage conditions that are crucial in facilitating the aging process? SpareFoot makes it easy to search specifically for wine storage facilities through this page. Such facilities provide wine storage units set to the perfect parameters to allow your wine to age into something marvelous. We've put together the following list of guidelines to help you correctly store your wine:
Exposure to light will break down some of the most important chemical compounds in wine, damaging the taste, color, scent and mouth-feel to the point that the bottle can be rendered undrinkable. This wouldn’t be a problem if it simply meant keeping your collection in the shade. Sunlight, however, is not the only thing that will damage your wine. Incandescent and fluorescent light can be harmful as well.
White wines are most susceptible to light damage, which is why these are often bottled in dark, tinted glass. Any wine bottled in clear, green or blue glass is at greater risk of light damage, as these tints do little to protect their contents from light. Fortunately, most wine storage units are unlit and will provide adequate light protection for your wine. If you’d like to take extra precautions, store your bottles in a crate or wrap them with opaque material.
Remember to keep wine out of the sun as much as possible when moving your stock into the wine storage unit.
After light exposure, temperature and humidity are your two greatest concerns when storing wine. Avoiding both entails finding the mean between extremes. Dedicated wine storage units will carefully maintain both temperature and humidity in their proper ranges. If you’re storing your wine in a typical, non-wine specific storage unit, most standard climate-controlled units will keep your wine safe.
Still, finding units that are designed specifically for wine storage is the best way to go, as these units will likely have a slightly higher level of humidity than typical climate-controlled storage units.
If your wine storage area has too little humidity, the cork may dry out and shrivel, allowing air to enter the bottle. When this new air comes in contact with your wine, it can cause oxidation and spoilage. This is an issue with older wine bottles or those that use traditional corks, as many modern wines will feature corks that have been treated to preserve their seal. Some use caps that will add another layer of protection to the cork.
The threat of a dry cork is the chief reason why you should always store your wine horizontally, with the bottle on its side. This allows the liquid inside to come in contact with the cork, keeping it moisturized and secure.
High levels of humidity present a different threat to your bottle. Though the drink itself is not in danger when stored in a sweltering space, some of the aesthetic features of the bottle, notably its label, will be. High levels of humidity can promote mold and mildew, which can endanger the organic materials in your unit, like the paper labels on your bottles. Though the wine inside will be safe (some wineries have even aged their bottles on the bottom of the ocean floor), the loss of a label can mean a great deal: since one reason to store wine is for profit rather than pleasure, losing the label on your bottle can ruin its resale value.
In short, you’ll be seeking a wine storage space that offers enough humidity to prevent corks from drying, but not so much that you lose your labels. That typically entails humidity above normal room temperature, or anywhere from 70 to 80 percent relative humidity. Wine storage units should use climate control and humidifiers to keep humidity within that range.
Cold air from a typical refrigerator is often too dry for wine storage, and you’ll face the same issues with your cork that we detailed above. Unlike liquor, wine will freeze, so keep it out of freezing temperatures. If your wine freezes, the aging process will be ruined. Frozen wine also expands, thus pushing the cork out of the bottle and exposing the wine to air.
High temperatures can ruin the aging process and spoil your wine. Though different wines are susceptible to different temperatures, a good rule of thumb is to make sure the temperature in your wine storage area does not climb above 77 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time. Ideally, your wine will be stored in an area where temperatures remain below 70 degrees, as temperatures above that mark can hasten the aging process, an effect that may sound desirable but typically imparts odd flavors to the beverage.
When it comes to finding the right temperature, aim for somewhere between 50-60 F. If you’re looking for a more precise figure, 55-57 F is a commonly cited temperature and will make for a great default.
Different wines may be stored at different optimal temperatures, with lighter wines kept at cooler temperatures. As a general rule, store your blush, rose and dry white wines at 46-57 F (8-14 C). Sparkling wines and champagne should be chilled to 43-47 F (6-8 C). Light red wine should stay under 55 F (13 C), and deep red wines at 59-66 F (15-19 C).
Finally, the most important consideration when it comes to temperature is consistency. Temperatures should remain stable, as wild swings in temperature can spoil your wine.
There’s some dispute among experts about whether or not persistent or occasional vibrations can disrupt the aging process and ruin your wine. It’s unlikely that your wine storage facility will experience any kind of vibrations you should worry about, but try not to shake your bottles too much when moving them. Too much vibration may disturb any sediment that should sink to the bottom of your bottle, giving certain wines a grainy texture.
Wine should not be stored with perishables or strong-smelling items. Your wine “breathes,” meaning that it will absorb other flavors and smells that leak in. Anything that can can mold or rot (like foodstuffs), or that has a strong scent (like chemicals) should not be kept inside a wine storage unit--in fact, items that fall into either of those two categories are probably not allowed in self-storage to begin with. You should also avoid storing your wine near old wood, which may contribute to cork rot.
Now, all that's left to do is wait patiently. There aren’t any hard or fast rules on how long you should let your wine age, and not all wine should be aged. The ideal age of each vintage is different, changing with both style and quality. Red wines are typically better if aged for longer, while whites delete have a shorter lifespan. The higher the quality of wine, the longer you should let it age. Typically this means between 2-10 years for a red and 2-3 for a white. For more accurate numbers, you’ll need to research your specific vintage or contact the vineyard.
Proper organization of your wine storage unit will go a long way towards making sure your wine stays safe and ages properly while maximizing the amount of space you use. Some wine storage facilities may come equipped with their own wine racks or shelves that are the perfect size for keeping your bottles. With others, you may want to use your own miniature wine rack, a wine storage cube, or keep your bottles in a proper wine crate. Storing your wine bottles horizontally on their side will keep the cork from drying and is often the most space-efficient way to keep them in a wine storage unit.