Proper Storage Conditions for Wine
Wine changes over time, often for the better, and one way to ensure that your bottles survive until that special dinner or event takes place is to store them properly. It is true that some wines do get better with age, but you must still handle them carefully to enjoy them at their best.
If you plan to store a reputable Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Italian Chianti for a decade to enjoy at your 25th wedding anniversary, temperature should be your number one consideration. The ideal temperature is 55°F. If this is impossible, at least make sure the temperature in your storage area is lower than 70°F. Cool temperatures slow the aging process; higher temperatures cause wines to develop prematurely.
Short-term exposure to high temperatures can also be destructive. Leaving that case of Syrah in the trunk of your car for a few hours on a hot August day should be fine, but taking a three day detour through the desert will literally bake the wine. That $60 bottle of Syrah will now taste like stewed prunes.
When storing wine, it's better to err on the side of too cold than too hot. However, drastic temperature swings, such as repeatedly taking the bottle out of the refrigerator and putting it back in, can adversely affect your wine. Temperature fluctuations change the pressure inside the bottle, such that the cork begins to push out ever so slightly. This can increase the amount of air entering the bottle, and you will quickly have a bottle of vinegar.
Cool temperatures will do little good if ultraviolet light strikes the bottle. Sunlight is the biggest culprit. Just as free radicals from sunlight cause the skin to wrinkle, they also promote oxidation of wine. White wines in clear bottles are the most vulnerable to such damage, but over time, ultraviolet light will also affect your Bordeaux in the dark green bottle.
Bottles with real corks should be stored on their sides to maintain contact between the cork and the wine. Without this contact, the cork may dry out, shrink, and let in air. This obviously does not apply to bottles with screw caps and synthetic corks, but make sure such bottles are still stored in cool, dark places.
For amateur and serious wine collectors alike, a wine refrigerator will address many of your storage concerns. With a modest investment of a $100 or so and access to a standard wall electrical outlet, you can pamper your wines with ideal temperature, humidity, and positioning. Compact units may only hold six to 20 bottles, but the more you spend, the more options you have. For a few thousand dollars, your wine refrigerator can have a 700 bottle capacity, mahogany racking, digital cooling system, and French doors.