To the novice or casual wine drinker, wine storage can seem like a mystifying art that only expert collectors and winemakers fully understand. For the average person, wine storage is actually a simple endeavor. Most wines are designed to be consumed within a few years of purchase. So, unless you’re purchasing one of those rare wines that need to age for decades and require professional storage, you really only need to remember 4 things: temperature, lighting, vibration, and position.
Wines should be stored between 45 and 65 degrees (F). You’ll see many experts touting 55 degrees as the ideal, but as long as you stay in that range your wines should be safe. Keep in mind that most refrigerators are kept below 45 degrees and that if you store wine in your kitchen, the heat of appliances and cooking will likely raise the temperature above 70 degrees. You also want to avoid exposing your wine to fluctuating temperatures. A closet, cabinet, or other corners of your home that maintains a consistent temperature in the above range should be fine.
UV rays are as bad for wine as for humans as they cause the wine to prematurely age. While most wines are bottled in glass that with UV protection, it’s always best to be safe. Store your wines in the darkest place you can find, or at the very least find a spot with no direct sunlight and no fluorescent lights.
Do you know how people keep a wine rack on top of their fridge? Not the best idea, especially if you have an old refrigerator that shakes a lot. Vibrations affect the chemical reactions in wine and can prevent sediment from settling in older wines, which means a grittier taste when you uncork them. Newer appliances usually have minimal vibrations, so you should be safe. Just don’t store your wine in a cabinet next to a washing machine, in a basement over a subway, or next to a construction site.
There’s a reason that wine is traditionally stored sideways. It has to do with the cork, so if you have wine with glass or plastic corks or even screw caps, it’s not as important. Traditional corks have a tendency to dry out over time, which causes them to shrink. As they shrink, oxygen leaks into the bottle and the wine can spoil. The solution: store wine on its side so that there is always liquid touching the cork and keeping it wet. A bonus to sideways storage is that it takes less space than standing bottles, so you may want to consider it even with more modern bottles.
Now that you understand the basic principles of wine storage it’s up to you to devise the proper storage in your home. A small cabinet or rack in a basement, closet, or isolated closet (away from heat sources and light) is probably the best bet. Avoid the garage (unless it’s climate-controlled) or other outside structure that is subject to varying temperatures, and keep the bottles still and on their side.
If you catch the collecting bug and need to store more wines for longer periods, you can always look into specialty wine coolers and professional storage options.