Wine storage tips
I’m often asked to provide guidelines on wine storage. Most recently a subscriber wrote:
“I’ve got a few dozen bottles of wine, some of which I’ve had for quite a few years. They are stored at the back of my garage, which is partly underground, although it can get quite warm through the day. I’ve noticed that two bottles, both stored on their sides, have leaky corks. What’s the best way to store them?”
Here’s my response:
- First, check all your bottles for leakage by standing them upright and noting the fill level of each bottle. Any wines where the level has dropped below the bottom of the bottle neck need to be opened and enjoyed as soon as possible.
- Now check the storage conditions by buying a maximum/minimum thermometer and leaving it next to your wine. Be aware that the thermometer measures air temperature. The wine in your bottles might not get quite as warm or as cool as the thermometer indicates. My personal “red line” for maximum temperature is 25 C. Above that there is a risk that the wine will hydraulic against the cork. When it cools, shrinking wine is likely to draw air into the bottle, resulting in a shortened shelf life. You may be able to reduce extremes to an acceptable level by insulating your wine. Otherwise, it might be worth buying a temperature-controlled wine storage cabinet. 10-15 C is the ideal temperature range to store wine.
- Keep your wine in the dark. Bottles with corks should be stored on their sides (ideally with the bottles slightly tilted so that the wine only partly covers the corks) and at a humidity level of around 75% (if the humidity is too low the corks can dry out and shrink).
- Store bottles away from vibration (avoid using under-stair storage for example). Keep a record of when you bought each bottle and how much each cost (useful for an insurance claim) and keep precious bottles in a secure place.
- Finally, your records should include a “when to drink” note that will reduce the risk of obsolescence. The three certainties in this world are death, taxes and oxidation.