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How to Properly Store Red and White Wine

February 5, 2019

We’ve all seen a cool, vintage bottle before. Wines that have been stored over many years and in turn have become more valuable for it. Wine, however, isn’t something you can just leave unattended and expect to get better over time. It takes making sure your wine is in a place with the right conditions. We reached out to Jim Gerakaris, Winery Sommelier and Wine Educator of JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, who was happy to share his best practices for storing wine in the long-term.

The Do's and Don'ts of Storing Wine

If you have a temperature and humidity-controlled wine fridge, cellaring your wine can be easy. All you need to do is keep the temperature of the fridge somewhere in the low to mid 50’s. This applies to all varietals of white or red wine.

But a wine fridge isn’t the only way to cellar wine if you have the right spaces to keep wines in your home. You can use a closet or storage space centrally located within your home, or a basement that is well insulated (having your wines sit on a cement floor is an added plus). The idea behind this is making sure the wines do not experience temperature swings, which can end up pushing the corks in and out of the bottle and ruin the wine in the process.

Whether or not you stock up on Paso Robles Wine on your next trip to or order wines to be shipped be sure to follow these six rules.

Six Pro Tips to Storing Your Wine 

  1. Temperature – The most important characteristic of a cellar is its temperature. The temperature that you will want to store a wine might be different than the temperature you will want to serve it. There are two considerations for your cellar temperature:

a. Average Temperature – The target temperature of your cellar is the starting point for planning a passive cellar (one that does not use any cooling device). The optimum storage temperature for any wine is 55°F (~13°C), but you can safely store wine long-term in a range between about 45°F (~7°C) to 65°F (~18°C) if there is not a large change in temperature each day.  Wines stored toward the upper end of the range will change a little more quickly than wines at the bottom of the range. Wines stored at the lower end of the range may accumulate some small tartrate crystals at the bottle of the bottle or around the cork.  While these are not harmful, they can be avoided by staying more toward the center of the temperature range.  Food refrigerators are meant for food storage, so they are kept at 38°F (~3°C) which is too cold for long term wine storage.

b. Temperature Variation – The temperature of your cellar needs to be as constant as possible. Changes of a few degrees over a couple of months is not problematic, but daily changes of 5-8° F or more can ruin your wine relatively quickly.

2. Humidity – Relative humidity in your cellar is best between 60% and 80%. Below about 55% you risk drying the corks from outside, potentially compromising the seal in the bottle and causing your wine to completely oxidize.  Above 80% you can get mold growth that while not necessarily catastrophic to the wine, can cause the labels to deteriorate and possibly cause some off smells in your cellar.

3. Lighting – Darkness is preferred. Exposure to light will cause a wine to quickly acquire off flavors and aromas.  For this reason, most wine bottles are darkly colored brown (best) or green.  If you have a light in your cellar, use it only when you are grabbing a bottle, doing an inventory, or just showing it off to guests, but most of the time you will want it to be turned off.  Sunlight exposure is just asking for trouble, especially if it is direct.

4. Vibration – Most people do not take vibration into account, but it can be very harmful especially over time. If you purchase a refrigerated wine cabinet, make sure it is constructed in a way that the motor is properly isolated and will not transmit vibration to the contents of the cabinet. If you are building your own cellar, look around to find a spot away from any vibration sources.  Similarly, taking wine on a trip in an airplane can often cause it to taste differently right after you land.  Fortunately, a wine will usually recover from these short exposures within a few days if shipped.

5. Strong Smells – Mold, cleaning chemicals, or other strong-smelling influences may affect your wine as the cork can absorb some of these and possibly transmit them to your wine. Don’t get too overly concerned about this aspect, but if it bothers you being in the space, it could bother your wine. 

6. Racking – At a basic level, you want wines to be stored on their sides, with the wine keeping the corks moist and allowing the sediment that forms in the bottle over time to settle along the bottom length of the bottle. Racks to hold the bottles can be made of any material that can last for a long time in the conditions in your cellar.  Cardboard boxes are OK, unless you have a higher humidity level, in which case they will not hold up well and might fall apart over time.  Wood, metal, plastic and masonry are better and if you are building your own cellar, get creative with whatever suits your aesthetic and space requirements.

With these great six tips, you can better create your own cellar and build an impressive vintage wine collection. That is if you can overcome the greatest hurdle of all. Keeping your wine unopened in the first place.