A brief guide to storing your wine
Even after wine has been bottled, it keeps changing and developing. Proper storage of wine enhances its positive attributes and keeps the contents of the bottle in their best possible drinking condition. For instance, consider that wine stored between 50?F - 55?F with a constant humidity of 70% and little exposure to light ages better than if it were to be stored in less ideal conditions. To retain the best characteristics of wine, it is also important that it is not disturbed by any fluctuations. This brief guide to wine storage will help you make informed decisions on storage that preserve the quality of your wine.
Storage best practices
If you're keen on aging and maturing your wines for a very long time, it is best to invest in a professional wine storage facility. But it may be impractical for most of us to have a wine cellar at home, and rarely do we wait several years to savor our wines. A wine cooler or a suitable basement can work pretty well if you follow the storage best practices outlined below.
The storage temperature has a direct effect on the time taken for a wine to age. The ideal temperature for storing wine is 55?F, though anywhere between 45? F and 65? F will work just fine. Any hotter than this, your wines may get spoiled or cooked, resulting in off flavors and aromas. If you plan to open the bottles no later than 4-5 years after their release, it's okay if your storage temperature is a few degrees warmer.
It is important not to store wines in areas experiencing temperature fluctuations on a daily basis. Exposure to wide-ranging temperatures can cause the wine inside the bottle to expand and contract, which can push the cork out. While minor temperature fluctuations won't make a difference, avoid places where frequent or extreme temperature changes occur.
As you may already know, a hot or warm storage environment is a complete no-no. Sunlight can prematurely age a bottle of wine. While clear bottles face this risk, ultraviolet rays also penetrate colored glass and degrade the organic compounds in the liquid. The characteristics of these organic compounds must be preserved as they are responsible for the flavor, structure and aroma of the wine. Fluorescent bulbs give off UV light, so it's better to stick to incandescent lights.
The rationale behind recommending 70% humidity is that dry air will seep into the bottles and affect the wine. However, the possibility of dry air penetrating into the bottles is very low within a majority of climates. So, humidity levels between 50% and 80% are not a problem. On the flip side, a damp environment can cause mold build-up, and while that doesn't impact the wine itself, it can damage the label, wooden boxes and cardboard.
Positioning the bottles
Wine bottles sealed with natural cork must be stored on their sides to allow the liquid to make contact with the cork and prevent it from drying out. Those sealed with screw caps or plastic corks can be positioned horizontally. It will save you space and not affect the contents of the bottle in any way.
Where to store your wine
For medium term storage, wooden racks are a good option and don't present any risk of damage to labels in comparison to racks with metal cross beams. If you can't get your hands on wooden wine cases, those built from the strongest cardboard can serve as an alternative. You can consider getting a custom-built wine rack in any shape you prefer. As far as expenses are concerned, a rule of thumb is to spend $1 for every bottle. That means if you're storing 15 bottles, a $15 wine rack will suffice.
If you plan to keep your wine bottles for more than a few years, a wine fridge/cooler is the best solution. There's a good choice in temperature-controlled wine fridges that allow you to regulate and adjust the temperature of each shelf. Such a humidity-controlled artificial wine cellar is ideal if you'll be storing both reds and whites.
Now, on the question of where you can place the wine racks or fridge, the basement is perhaps the most accessible area provided it is cool and not overly damp. Indoor areas and garden sheds may be too warm if there's a chance of the temperature dropping rapidly. The worst possible areas to store your wine bottles are the top of your refrigerator or by the range/stove. If you have fewer bottles to store, an insulated area under the stairs or a safe corner of a spare room are other options to explore.