Proper Wine Storage Tips
Whether you need to properly store a variety of wines for your restaurant or you're looking for long term storage tips, there are a few things that you must remember. Wine storage isn't complicated, but there are several factors to take into consideration, such as temperature, humidity, light exposure, and the condition of the cork. We'll get into all of those aspects in this article and more, including information on wine refrigeration equipment and some of the differences between storing red vs. white. You may also consider hiring or becoming a sommelier if you're really serious about providing the best possible wine service for your guests.
Wine Storage Tips
Store it Horizontally
You've probably seen wine being stored sideways. If you've ever wondered why, the primary reason is to keep wine up against the cork. When the wine is in constant contact with the cork, it won't dry out as easily. This isn't really necessary for wines that you plan to enjoy in the short term or bottles that use non-natural corks like rubber stoppers, plastic / glass corks, and screw caps. Despite this, many people still choose to store such wines sideways because it saves space, allows you to see each bottle clearly, and it's traditional.
A compromised cork can quickly ruin a bottle of wine. When natural cork dries out, it can crack and allow air exposure, one of wine's worst enemies. Air exposure through a dry, cracked cork can give wine a flat aroma and taste.
Keep a Steady, Cool Temperature
Temperature is paramount in conserving wine. Exposing your bottles to excessive heat, or even cold, can ruin the product. Proper wine storage temperatures can help preserve your wine for years and ensure that the wine doesn't age too quickly. 55 degrees Fahrenheit is a happy medium if you're storing both red and white wine in the same place, but a few degrees north or south of that number isn't likely to negatively affect wines that are going to be enjoyed within a few years of purchasing. However, temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit can age wine more rapidly than desired. More extreme heat can "cook" your wine, causing the flavor and aroma to go flat. You don't want to store wine in an area that is too cold, either. Many people store wine in their standard refrigerators, which are often too cold. Doing so can zap out the natural aromas and flavors of wine over time.
Keeping a consistent temperature is just as important as hitting a proper wine storage temperature. You'll want to avoid drastic changes in temperature, as this can lead to expansion and contraction of the liquid inside the bottle, which can slowly push the cork out over time and lead to air exposure.
Store in Ideal Humidity
Humidity is important for two reasons: the wine itself and the label. If you're serious about maintaining pristine bottles—including the labels—you'll want to pay close attention to humidity. A good range is between 50 and 80 percent humidity. You can tailor this to your unique situation. The reason that you want to store your wine in a relatively humid environment is, again, that you don't want the cork to dry out too much. Now, before you go too high on the humidity, consider how long you plan to store your bottles. If you plan on keeping them safely in storage for 10 or more years, the high humidity can damage the label. For the most part, storing your wine sideways will be enough to counteract the dry cork problem, but be aware of the humidity factor as well, especially for long term storage.
Limit Light Exposure
This is another tip geared towards long term storage, but it's applicable to wine storage in general. Light and, in particular, UV rays, can prematurely age your wine just like excessive heat. Many bottles utilize tinted glass to help prevent this. Mainly, try to keep your wine out of direct sunlight. That's the real killer.
Although both red and white wine are susceptible to light damage, white wines are particularly affected.
Keep it Still
It's important to keep wine as still as possible. Even subtle vibrations created by cooling appliances can harm your wine. The science behind this is that shaking the wine will speed up the chemical reactions and cause it to age more quickly. In general, avoid manually shaking your wine and just try to keep it as still as possible to be safe. Also, if you consider investing in a wine cooler or refrigerator, make sure it doesn't create harmful vibrations.
Wine Temperature Specifics
Red Wine Storage
White Wine Storage
Unlike red wine, which generally shouldn't be kept in conditions cooler than 55 degrees, white wine is best served at slightly lower temperatures. The same basic rules apply. The more full-bodied the wine, the higher you can safely go within the suggested range, which is about 40-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remember that you won't ruin your wine as long as you keep it under 70 degrees, and you meet the other storage conditions, but for the best possible aromas and flavors, try to stay within the desired range for whatever wine you have. Use this chart as a reference for red / white wine storage temperature.
Professional Wine Storage
For professional wine storage and the best possible results, it's wise to invest in a wine shelving unit, cooler / merchandiser, or commercial refrigerator. These storage units differ in the ways in which they store and display wine.
Wine Shelving Units
These storage units are the most cost-effective method of professional wine storage, and they only work when you have a place to put them that meets the proper temperature, humidity, and light requirements. A benefit to wine racks and wine storage cabinets is that you save money on electricity with no refrigeration. They're great if you have a wine cellar already and all you need is a storage unit. The wine lies horizontally in the racks, keeping the cork wet and allowing you to store your wine for years.
Wine coolers are designed to store your wine at precise temperatures. Some even have multiple zones to allow for storage of different kinds of wine within the same wine storage cabinet. Some coolers are also designed to merchandise wine. Merchandisers are made to show off the product to customers at your wine shop while keeping it at the ideal temperature.
Heavy Duty Wine Refrigerators
These units are built with toughness and durability in mind. Stainless steel construction and storage capacities of up to nearly 200 bottles are the primary features of these commercial, heavy use wine refrigerators. They're perfect for upscale restaurants that serve high volumes of wine that needs to be held at exact temperatures.
You can evaluate your own situation to determine how precisely you want to adhere to the recommended wine storage guidelines. If you have a dark, humid, cool place to store your wine, a simple wine rack may be perfect for you. If, however, you need to have more control over the storage conditions in your restaurant or wine shop, you could consider investing in a wine cooler or refrigerator.