How to Store Wine Properly, According to a Somm

Whether we pair it with food or pour some to quench our late afternoon thirst, the good vibes are never far behind when our cup runneth over with wine. But there’s a problem that arises whenever we go for a wine run and come home with a case of the stuff: After a week or two of waiting around in the kitchen, our favorite bottle falls flat. Fortunately, there are some solutions to ensure your vino doesn’t disappoint—and we’re happy to report that it doesn’t involve depleting your surplus by imbibing to excess. I checked in with Adrian Murcia, a sommelier for the Frankies Spuntino restaurant group in Brooklyn, New York (full disclosure: he’s also my husband) to get the scoop on how to store wine the right way. The takeaway? You can keep stockpiling the stuff even if you don’t have access to a wine cellar. Phew. 

Keep it Cool (But Not Cold) and Consistent

Fancy wine fridges aren’t just for show—they’re designed to keep wine at an ideal temperature so all its subtlety is still there when you’re ready to start swirling and sipping. Still, you don’t need to invest in special equipment to keep your vino in top form so long as you plan to consume it in the near future. That said, it’s best to store your bottles at 55 degrees Fahrenheit no matter how long you hold onto them. Fortunately for those of us who make short work of our wine and drink it up within a couple weeks, there’s some leeway—anywhere between 45 and 65 degrees should be just fine.

What happens when you don’t take temperature into account and let your wine swelter? Well, it starts to taste hot too—and that means the bold presence of alcohol, without the pleasant nuances of a properly balanced beverage. Room temp is particularly problematic for red wine, as it “accentuates alcohol and tannin and downplays acidity, leaving it all ouf of whack,” Murcia explains.

On the other hand, cold temperatures, like the ones found in your fridge, are not ideal either—especially for bottles that have a classic cork seal as opposed to a screw cap. “Micro-oxygenation, the tiny amounts of air that make it through the cork, is a good thing.” Full-blown oxidation, on the other hand, is not. When wine gets too cold, it expands (like water) in the bottle and this can compromise the cork’s seal, allowing too much air to get in. This degree of oxidation “saps the wine of all those complex, subtle, delicate aromatic compounds that make wine such a gift.” So no matter how impatient you are to sip some chilly rosé, don’t make the mistake of popping it in the freezer and forgetting about it for hours. “No matter how carefully you defrost a frozen wine, it’ll never be as good,” Murcia tells us.

Finally, the somm in my life says that temperature fluctuations can be an even bigger risk to your vino. In other words, the cabinet above your stove might seem relatively cool, and it probably is sometimes...until you start cooking. Bottom line: When choosing a storage spot, keep in mind that climate consistency is also key.

High Humidity is Helpful

Remember how a compromised seal is a major culprit when it comes to oxidized wine (and a dull flavor)? Well, cold temperatures aren’t the only risk factor for this unfortunate outcome. Wine corks shrink when they get dried out, which in turn introduces too much air. To avoid this, store bottles on their side so the liquid stays in contact with the cork—and pick a location with higher humidity (i.e., away from the direct path of an air conditioning unit.)

Still, don’t sweat it if you have a couple bottles of wine and don’t own a wine rack: “For short to medium term storage, it’s not really necessary to lay it sideways, though it’s good practice in case short term inadvertently becomes long term.” (If only we had that problem, friends.) And you don’t need to be a professional sommelier to sniff out an oxidized wine. Your favorite glass of fermented grapes will taste hollow and flat once oxygen has crashed the party—and that’s one buzzkill worth avoiding.

All Vibes are Bad Vibes

Sorry, Beach Boys—there’s no such thing as good vibrations when it comes to wine. Don’t keep your bottles on top of the fridge, washing machine, or anywhere else the liquid within might start moving around too much. “Agitating wine can disrupt the balance, upset its evolution in the bottle and disrupt the pressure inside the bottle—all of which can temporarily, or even permanently, ‘mute’ wine.” Basically, if you want your wine to fully express itself in your glass (and your mouth), don’t jostle that juice.

Avoid Direct Light

This transgression is quite serious, but fortunately it's easy to avoid: “Never, ever leave wine in direct sunlight. It won’t take long for it to permanently affect the wine’s color and flavor,” says Murcia. Another fun fact: In wine speak, a bottle that has gone bad after baking in the sun is said to be ‘maderized.’ But all you need to know is that your once deliciously dry red will taste like it’s having a dessert wine identity crisis—brownish in color with the taste of burnt sugar.

So Where Should You Keep Your Wine?

Now that you know all the don’ts of storing wine, you’re probably wondering what to do with those extra bottles you brought home. Murcia says that the best place to keep your wine, in the absence of a temperature-controlled wine fridge or cellar, is a standard basement. That spooky space beneath the foundation of your home is likely the coolest, darkest and most humid storage spot. In case you missed it, that’s the trifecta of wine storage. Not an option? No big deal: “In the absence of a basement, store your wine in a box in the coolest closet or pantry in your house, away from light. And nowhere near a heating vent, hot water pipe, or your stove.” Well, that sounds straightforward. Done and done.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...