To the casual wine collector, wine storage can seem like a mystifying art. The one thing many people believe is that storing wine on its side is essential. However, is that really what we need to do? How important is a position to wine storage these days?
Wine storage has been slowly changing. Frankly, most of us aren’t purchasing rare wines that need to age for decades and require professional wine storage. In fact, most modern wines are designed to be consumed within a few years of purchase. They aren’t really expected to undergo a long aging process to perfect their taste.
That’s not all that has changed. The corks are different so that affects how important the stored position of the wine bottle is. This makes the trick to storing wine much more straightforward because it doesn’t require storing wine on its side in many cases.
Four Main Aspects of Wine Storage
For the average person, wine storage is actually a simple endeavor. You really only need to remember four main aspects, and if you master those, storing wine will be a snap:
Why do we think that storing wine on its side is important? We’ve all seen it stored this way in movies and in restaurants. The reason has to do with the cork. Traditional corks have a tendency to dry out over time, which causes them to shrink. As they shrink, oxygen leaks into the bottle, spoiling the wine. The solution: store wine on its side so that there is always liquid touching the cork and keeping it wet.
However, many modern wines don’t have actual corks. The bottles tend to have plastic corks or even screw caps. Neither of these bottle stoppers needs to be kept wet. With these, you can decide how to store them based on the space you have. If they don’t need to be on their side, this allows you to store wine bottles in a traditional bar along with your liquors.
Today’s restaurants probably don’t need to put their wine on its side. They probably do it out of habit, or they do it because it sends a signal that their wines are of higher quality. This may or may not be the case. You can find out if it’s necessary if you ask to see the cork for the bottle you choose.
Unlike bottle position, bottle temperature is still as critical to wine as it has ever been. You’ll see many experts touting 55 degrees as the ideal. If you buy a dedicated wine cooler, it’s likely that will be the recommended temperature. However, for the rest of us, the goal is to maintain wine at temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees (F).
A closet, home bar, or cabinet that maintains a consistent temperature in the above range should be fine. The most important thing is to avoid exposing your wine to fluctuating temperatures. Many people store wine in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the heat of appliances and cooking will likely raise the temperature above 70 degrees, making the kitchen a poor option.
The refrigerator is another common place for storage, but the fridge is usually kept below 45 degrees. For this reason, it’s best not to refrigerate wine until it’s time to drink it. If you see refrigerated wine coolers in a restaurant, chances are that this is a genuine effort to maintain the correct temperature for your enjoyment.
If you choose to display wines, remember that UV rays are as bad for wine as for humans. Sunlight will cause the wine to prematurely age, even if the wines are bottled in glass with UV protection. That’s why a dark or dimly lit space has always been used to store wine. In your house, store your wines in the darkest place you can find. At the very least, find a spot with no direct sunlight and no fluorescent lights.
Vibrations affect the chemical reactions in wine and can prevent sediment from settling in older wines. This problem means a grittier taste when you uncork them. So when choosing a spot, think about what could jostle the wine. For instance, you 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.
This is why it isn’t a good idea to put a wine rack on the top of a fridge, especially an old one. Refrigerators tend to vibrate, which isn’t good for wine.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Your Spot for Wine Storage
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. You want to be sure the bottles will be still and rarely jostled by vibrations.
Finally, you can decide about storing wine on its side. That’s really only needed when it’s a wine with an authentic cork.