Whole books have been written about this subject. There are essentially five basic rules: constant room temperature, correct humidity, no light, no extraneous odours, and stability. Our checklist will show you the best way of storing your wines.
5 wine storage tips
A wine continues to develop in the bottle under the influence of the small amount of air between the cork and the liquid. Over time this causes both its colour and aroma to change. This process is also known as micro-oxygenation or "breathing". A cork is generally airtight. However, microscopically small scratches on the surface of the bottle and the cork's pores allow a certain amount of air interchange. The more elasticity the cork loses through drying out, the more oxygen can penetrate.
What's happening while a wine is being stored? During the variously long maturing processes, many complicated chemical reactions take place between the individual components of a wine. The four elements of tannins, alcohol, sugar and acidity are responsible for preserving the wine. Tannins gradually fade in red wines so they become much more mellow and round.
To enable your wine to develop optimally, follow the five golden rules below.
Temperature: How should you store wine to prevent loss of quality? The most important thing is to ensure a constant room temperature (in your wine cellar). Avoid big fluctuations in temperature, for example due to seasonal changes or differences between daytime and night-time temperatures. Wine expands at high temperatures and contracts at low ones. This leads to a loss of aroma. Although the maturing process is accelerated at a higher temperature, this will impair the flavour. The aromatic compounds rapidly dissipate at temperatures over 25°C especially. If the wine expands, the cork will also be affected. It will no longer form a tight seal so oxygen will then be able to enter the bottle. The wine will consequently not age as well and will acquire an unpleasant oxidized nuance. The ideal storage temperature is between 10°C and 13°C as this allows the wine to develop more slowly and fully. This applies equally to red and white wines.
Humidity: How does humidity affect wine? This is less of a concern with synthetic corks and screw caps. If kept in a damp unventilated storage space, only the label will peel off. However, this is still something connoisseurs would wish to avoid. Humidity is more critical with natural and porous agglomerated corks. If the humidity is too high, mould can form on the cork and the label, which also adversely affects the quality of the wine. As a rule of thumb, therefore, it is always better to store wine in a drier atmosphere rather than one with too high humidity. Ideally, humidity should be between 75% and 85%. If it is too low, the cork will dry out and lose its elasticity. It will then no longer be airtight so wine will be able to seep out and evaporate or oxygen will enter. One tip for increasing the humidity in your wine cellar if necessary is to spread gravel over the floor and regularly sprinkle it with water. Humidifiers can also do the job, for example humidifiers from Fust.
Light: Should you store wine in the dark or in the light? Wine experts are unanimous on this point: always store wine in a dark place and keep any light exposure to a minimum. Wines are sensitive to light, especially ultraviolet rays, so storage rooms should always be dark. Owing to their light-sensitivity, black bottles are actually used for some ageworthy wines such as vintage port. If it is not possible to keep the room completely dark, at least leave your fine wines in cases or cover the bottles. Too much light causes unwanted chemical reactions. This can be seen from the way the colour changes: white wine takes on a yellowish tinge, while in reds the strong colour will fade. It also impairs the flavour and aroma.
Should you store bottles upright or lying on their side? Wine bottles should be stored over long periods lying on their side. Ideally, bottles should be kept horizontally in a wine cabinet. Such cabinets are specially designed to store wines and provide stable racking. They come in a variety of sizes. For example, the practical wine cabinets from Fust offer a range of bottle capacities. The reason bottles should be stored lying down is that this also keeps the cork moist on the inside. This prevents the closure becoming porous and allowing oxygen to enter. Everyday drinking wines intended for immediate consumption can be kept upright for a short time however.
Other wine storage factors: Avoid disturbing the bottles. A wine should be disturbed as little as possible during the ageing process. Although there is no evidence that it does great harm, wines should nevertheless be protected from significant vibrations. Being shaken up, by vibrations caused by a washing machine for example, will stir up sediments, especially ones that build up in tannin-rich red wines as they mature. This is also why an old kitchen fridge is unlikely to be suitable for storing wines long-term. Horizontal racks specially designed to hold wine bottles lying horizontally ensure stability. Coop's Building & Hobby stores stock wine racks that absorb vibrations. Another thing to watch out for are extraneous odours. Ideally, a storage room should be well ventilated and free of any smells that could easily penetrate the bottle.