Do’s & Don’ts of Proper Wine Storage (Checklist Included)


One of the many misconceptions of storing wine is–the older, the better. Although that is true for some wines, like with many things—it’s not as simple as movies, magazines, and websites make it out to be.   The truth is that storing wine is more of an art. A lot more goes into storing wine than merely putting a bottle on a shelf and leaving it for 15 years. 

What should (and what shouldn’t you do) when storing wine?

DoDon't
Store between 11-13° Celsius 50-55° FahrenheitStore your wine below 45° Fahrenheit
Put the most expensive wines in a professional wine storage lockerStore wine on top of appliances that give off heat
Provide a Humidity level of 50-80% (Ideally 70%)Leave the area too dry or too humid.
Place the wine at a slight angle to cover the corkStand the wine straight up (unless it is sparkling)
Enjoy wine in glasses only 1/3 fullFill the wine glass to the top with wine.
Chill white wine, and Drink Red wine at Room TemperatureKeep the wine at room temperature for too long

The primary purpose of storing wine is to either preserve the flavor of a mature wine or age a premature wine.  When you decide on the bottle that you want to save and the purpose of storing it, then you can determine the best way to store the wine.  

Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the page to see the Wine Storage Checklist I provided that will ensure high-standards of long-term storage.

If you want to explore new wines and looking for a great, trustworthy seller of wine online, Wine.com is your solution as the World’s Largest Wine Store. They offer hard-to-find and in-demand wine from the best wine regions and wineries across the globe. They ship to most U.S. states. Click here to see how they can meet and exceed your wine expectations.

For a complete list of wine products and accessories I really love, check out this page. You’ll find my recommendations for wine refrigerators, wine decanters, and wine aerators, along with the best place to buy wine online. Click here to see the complete listing.

How Do You Store Wine

Wine needs a cold, dark, and humid place to rest until you are ready to consume the wine. The recommended temperature is 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees Celsius. You want to keep the wine at this optimal temperature to avoid cooking the wine. 

Your wine is also going to need a Humid environment to rest. The humidity helps keep the wine at a suitable temperature and keeps corks from drying out.  It is also recommended that you turn each bottle of red wine one-quarter turns (source) each month to avoid the wine from settling too much. 

The angle in which the wine should be stored is also critical; you want to save your long-standing wines at a horizontal angle or at a slight edge facing downwards towards the cork.  This angle helps keep the cork moist and prevents it from drying out.

How Long Do You Store Wine

Table wines are meant to be consumed almost immediately after purchase. Most wines that are available in conventional grocery stores are only table wines.  You want to make sure that you are storing the correct type of wine (source). 

To Store Table wine generally is not going to accomplish that exceptional flavor you get from aging a reasonable premium or luxury wine. Table wines are great when stored for up to two years; after that, they tend to lose their flavor. 

The aging of wine at a winery does not correspond with its aging potential. Instead, compounds in the wine itself determine its aging capacity. High tannins and high acidity are two factors, naturally occurring in the grapes themselves, that allow for an ageable wine.

You must store wine at the correct temperature to avoid making any changes to the taste of the wine. S

  • Correct Type of Wine; Premium or Luxury wine can be stored for a long time.
  • Table wine should be consumed within two years of the bottled date.

Wine Sediment Concerns

One thing that can always ruin a nice bottle of an aged wine is the sediment at the bottom. Although you can limit the residue occurring in the bottle of wine, there is no sure way to eliminate the deposit. These wine sediments can be removed. 

Wine sediment occurs in wines that are ten years or older. Deposits in the wine can be filtered out with sediment filters after opening the bottle. The residue is harmless, but it doesn’t taste very well, either. While you are using the decanter, slowly pour the wine into the decanter.  

How to filter out Sediment from your Aged Wine:

  • Use a decanter
  • Pour slowly
  • Apply a small amount of light towards the neck of the bottle
  • Pour until you see sediment in the neck
  • Use a good wine sediment filter. This is one of the very best wine sediment filters and I was surprised how cheap it was on Amazon.

Types of Wines 

You will get some different kinds of wines from various regions and depending on the grape varietal, it will have a different aging process. 

Distinguishing between table wines, premium wines, and luxury wines are generally pretty easy to tell based on the price and the place that you are purchasing.  Typically, if you are buying from a beverage store or a wine store, the workers can help you pick an excellent wine for any purpose. 

Red wines are going to be stored differently from white wines, as white wines tend to be more sensitive to the elements that red wines are. 

Getting a useful wine guide or almanac will help you determine what winery had a good year and what was a bad year.  At the time, you can find an excellent wine to finish a collection at auction or even a grocery store from time to time. 

Table Wines

The table wines are a new terminology used to classify wines that are of moderate quality and meant to be consumed with a meal. These wines are typically processed in four weeks, and then aged for a period of one to two years. 

Sometimes the table wines are not aged for one year or more, sometimes table wines with higher fruit content only need a month or two to age.  American table wines refer to any wine that has a maximum alcohol by volume level of 14%.  

European standards are different. Table wines in Europe are a classification of wine that was processed with minimal rules. The labeling requirements for European wines were stricter and required a point of origin. Champagne was only made in Champagne France, and a table wine would be labeled as such.   

Table wines refer more to the affordability of certain wines from different regions, almost like a test of the real batch in the back. If you enjoyed the table wine, then you will most definitely enjoy the premium wine from the same winery. 

Red Versus White Table Wines

Red table wines are often mixtures of other red wines. A lot of these labels can be deceiving, such as the deep color of a merlot, combined with the light fruity scent of shiraz and a twist of Cabernet Franc, a pinch or Berbera.  You can’t tell, but I just described a very no-nonsense kind of red table wine found in most grocery stores today. 

When you find a red wine that is labeled Merlot but was created in an American Winery, they are most likely referring to the style in which they copied, as well as it being a merlot mix.  The Merlot grape can be mixed with a cabernet to add subtle tannins that make an excellent fruity mix. 

White wine is made from a lighter color grape, a green or white grape as they are called.  The color in the wine comes from the skin and seeds of the grapes during the fermenting process. 

Either way, wine grapes are used in the production of wine, whether it be white or black grapes. You can use both colors in the production of white wine, but only the black grapes in the production of red wine. White wine can also be made from red grapes by removing the skins early.

  • Know the Wine you Want

Picking a Good Rack or Wine Refrigerator

Whether you choose an external system, a cellar system, or a small under the counter system, you are going to need a good rack to store the wine on. You want the frame, whether in the refrigerator or on the shelf, to provide just the right angle to keep the cork slightly wet. 

Having a wine rack is essential to keep the wine in a single space away from temperature variations, sunlight exposure, mildew, mold, and keeping it easy to maintain. 

The system that you choose to go with should allow you to move one bottle of wine without disturbing the others. The temperature can fluctuate between 50-60 degrees with a relative humidity of 50-70%.

If you have an appropriate wine cellar built into your home, or you want to use a basement for a dry cellar, then an excellent wooden rack is going to be best. The wood rack allows the wine to cool and warm gradually without holding onto much of the temperature in the room for too long. 

A refrigeration system will most likely use a stainless-steel rack.  The racks help distribute the cold better through the infusion. Since most wines in a wine refrigerator are table wines and are going to be consumed within 2-5 years, a small wine cooler will do the job just fine.

Do you Need A Wine Refrigerator? 

Wines stored in apartments for an extended period should be stored in a portable wine refrigerator. A countertop wine cooler is not very expensive and holds about 18 bottles of wine.

These are good if you host many parties, enjoy a good wine with dinner regularly, or if you plan on keeping white table wines. I wrote a very comprehensive article highlighting the exact reasons you should want to store wine in a good wine refrigerator.

If you prefer the natural placement of wine and are not too worried about shelf life, or preservation, then a wooden rack that holds about 12 bottles should work for you just fine, especially if you prefer your wine at room temperature. 

There are wine cellars that can be custom-built for you, or you can build your wine cellar. Your wine cellar doesn’t have to be attached to your house; you could create one outside; it just needs to be insulated, temperature and humidity controlled, and have a sound moisture barrier. 

Or consider the professional storage of your wine at professional wine storage facilities.  Use this link to see if one is available in your area.  Most places will charge you by the locker, but it is an excellent way to keep those extra special wine bottles stored away safe from the elements. 

It would be best if you considered that the placement of the refrigerator is key to having it work properly. You cannot store the wine refrigerator in an area that will reach 30 degrees higher than the temperature you want to save the wine.

  • To Refrigerate or not Refrigerate, that is the Question?

Dealing with Humidity

Keeping the correct humidity level in your wine cooler or storage area is a must-do. A humidity above 70% can damage the labels but is ok for the wine, just don’t let the humidity exceed 80% for the wine. A humidity level below 50 percent can damage the wine corks. 

The humidity level is to keep the corks moist and the labels dry, you also want to avoid aerating the wine too early. A dried-out cork can degrade the wine and lose some of the liquid in the bottle.

Keeping the cork hydrated is the best way to preserve the bottle of wine. If you can, having an integrated humidity control unit inside of your wine refrigerator can help keep the conditions of the wine bottles beautiful and humid to the proper levels.

Setting the humidity control will remain at a robust storage status. 

If you are using a larger area, then a room humidifier may be the better option. If you are going to use a cellar, make sure you have an excellent vapor barrier installed to prevent mold.  

  • Humidity is Between 50-80 %

How Long is Wine Good for After Opening 

A bottle of wine is good for 3-5 days after opening the bottle. However, the taste will suffer after just one day of being exposed to air.  A maximum period of seven days is advised, and this rule should only be applied to medium-bodied wines. 

There are a few things that you can do to prolong the flavor of the wine:

  • Use an expanding cork to reseal the wine
  • Use an aerator to pour the wine
  • Use a wine stop vacuum pump
  • Use a needle kit to preserve the wine

These solutions are not end-all solutions but will help slow down the process that will occur once air touches the wine. Every system is different, but the needle system seems to have the most extended preservation cycle of three months. 

If you are going to consume the wine again within the next 24 hours, then sticking the cork back in the bottle and placing the wine in the refrigerator is the best option. 

Save the Sun

Sun is right for you, but bad for wine. Save the sun for a picnic or another celebration to enjoy your wine. Direct sunlight can not only warm your wine to an unstable temperature, but the U.V. rays from the sunlight can also damage the wine. 

The light can change the compounds in the wine responsible for the flavor of the wine. Mostly affecting the phenols, the U.V light is not a useful element to add to your wine collection. 

Incandescent bulbs give off a U.V. radiant of light and can have the same effect on Your bottle of wine as sunlight can. You want to store your wine in a dark place for long term keeping. The bottles are colored to help keep light out of the bottle of wine. 

Wines that have been stored in clear containers pose the most significant risk to light spoilage. Some wines are shipped in boxes that do not allow for direct light to enter the case. 

  • Save the Sun——No Sunlight for the wine; Store wine in a dark place.

Temperature

Keeping the Temperature at or around 55 degrees Fahrenheit to allow the wine to be stored comfortably and not overcook the wine. Overcooking the wine refers to several different things that could happen from the temperature being too high during storage. 

The Most Common Thing That Could Occur:

  • Oxidization

Sulfur is not a byproduct of storing wine in a warm environment. Neither is volatile acidity, yeast nor cork taint. Just oxidation.

Keeping the Wine at the optimal temperature and not moving the wine around too much can eliminate the majority of these issues. You can always tell that the wine has been tainted after opening, and it has a different smell than expected. 

The taste is the most affected factor and is going to be different with every bottle, and every person. You can get ten different answers from five different people on how a cooked bottle of wine tastes.

  • Temperature is hovering around 13 Degrees Celsius, or 55 Degrees Fahrenheit

What happens to wine in the cold

Wine will reach a freezing temperature at 20 degrees Fahrenheit but below 44 degrees Fahrenheit, the wine can display some virtually harmless tartrate crystals. With wine that gets too cold, it will slow down the aging process

A chilled bottle of wine won’t do much more than being cold, however, if the wine freezes it can cause added pressure on the elements and cause the glass bottle to crack, or the cork to loosen. If the cork loosens, when the wine returns to its normal state, it can allow air into the bottle. 

If your wine does become too cold, and you do notice something different such as leakage coming from the cork or a wine spot on the rack itself, there is no way to fix it.  You would need to enjoy that one prematurely. 

Champagne and other sparkling wines will explode if frozen, or the temperature gets too cold. The reason for this is that the gasses start expanding under pressure inside the bottle. 

For a complete breakdown of h0w long wine takes to freeze, how to safely thaw frozen wine, and my surprising results from experimentation, check out this article I wrote.

Store and Don’t Touch

Avoid interacting with the bottle too much after storing the wine away. If a lot is going on inside the container, you risk changing the chemical composition of the wine and inadvertently changing the taste.

Wine is susceptible to many elements and needs great care to preserve that exceptional flavor. Other than turning the wine a quarter turn every month, the wine should not be disturbed in its resting place.

A bottle of good premium wine can be stored indefinitely; preserving the taste is why we store it. Moving the wine around causes the wine to mix and slosh around. 

Ideally, if you have to move a bottle of premium wine out of the way to grab the table wine, you are putting added stress on the premium wine. To preserve the flavor, store it, but don’t touch it until you are ready to drink it. 

Wine is stored on its sides, except for carbonated wines.  These are stored standing up. The carbonation in the bottle will help keep the cork moist. 

  • They are stored in a manner that allows you to Grab one without disturbing the others.
  • Resting on the Bottles side at a slight angle

Vibrations 

Vibrations can ruin your wine unexpectedly. Too much noise or too many vibrations traveling through the bottles of wine can shake up the chemical composition and create a change in the taste and texture of the wine.

An increase in the propanol and Isoamyl from vibrations can throw the entire flavor of the wine out of balance. A decrease in the acidity from an increase in the refractive index can dull the wine. 

An earthquake can cause serious damage to your collection.  If the earthquake is strong, or your house is close to the epicenter, bottles that survive the quake might as well have been picked up and shook vigorously. 

The sediment in the bottom that you are filtering out is now mixed right back into your wine. Railroads and other appliances that provide a constant vibration can change the flavor of your wine. Your wines are still prone to be shaken.

This damaging element stirs up sediment at a slower regular rate rather than a sporadic fast pace, such as the earthquake. The vibrations from a countertop wine refrigerator can affect the taste of wine, usually over 18 months or less. 

Small, infrequent rattles, such as doors opening or closing, or bumping into the rack occasionally, won’t do too much damage. Keep your wine in a place that it is least likely to be disturbed. 

  • Vibration Free Zone Storage

Consumption

The day comes that you want to open that merlot to celebrate. You want to enjoy the wine as much as possible. Fill up your merlot glass only 1/3 of the way allowing the aroma and wine to mix with the air.

Most wine will mix with the air in the glass if it has room to breathe. Wine will get warm relatively quickly, so keep your wine ready and at about 50 degrees right up to the point that you want to serve the wine.

If you are serving a white wine, then it should already be refrigerated. White wines should only be served cold. Have the correct types of snacks to go with your wine if you choose to. 

Many people think cheese should always accompany the wine. That is not true—sometimes fruit or meat are better choices.  And if you do choose cheese, you must select the proper cheese for an authentic experience.

Hosting that 15-year merlot with a generic brand of mild cheddar is not going to complement your wine well.  If anything, it will make you realize you need to upgrade what cheese you buy.

Consumption is the enjoyment of your hard work paying off. You want to savor the flavor of the wine, and its tannins, so don’t drink it too fast. 

  • Enjoy Your Wine

Final Thoughts/Conclusion 

Wine is a fantastic treat when served up correctly.  Learning more about wine and becoming a collector is also enjoyable. The hunt for that special vino, or the one year that got away, is only half of the fun.

The other half is getting to enjoy the hard work and dedication to preserving one of the most exceptional beverages in your collection.

Being able to share that experience with another person and enjoy the aroma, flavor, and tannins of fine wine is something that every human being should experience at least once in their lives.  Winemaking is an art form, and preserving that art is a hobby. 

“ Wine is the Only Artwork You Can Drink”

—-Luis Fernando——-

Wine Storage Checklist

  • Know the Wine you Want
  • Correct Type of Wine; Premium or Luxury wine can be stored for a long time.
  • Table wine should be consumed within two years of the bottled date. 
  • Resting on the Bottles side at a slight angle
  • They are stored in a manner that allows you to Grab one without disturbing the others.
  • To Refrigerate or not Refrigerate, that is the Question?
  • Temperature is hovering around 13 Degrees Celsius, or 55 Degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Humidity is Between 50-80 %
  • Vibration Free Zone Storage
  • Save the Sun——No Sunlight for the wine; Store wine in a dark place.
  • Enjoy Your Wine

This article was reviewed for accuracy by Phoebe Fynn. Phoebe Flynn is a wine specialist and educator on a mission to make wine more fun and accessible. Phoebe passed her Court of Master Sommeliers Level One Exam last October and is currently preparing to sit her Level Two Exam this August. She believes wine is a lifelong study and vows to never stop learning. Follow her wine journey on Instagram @yourwinefriend.

Check out her author bio page for more information.

Carl Walton

Owner & primary writer on PinotSquirrel.com. It is my goal to bring you the most useful and actionable guidance about wine storage there is online. I consult with industry experts to bring you only what you need to know.

Recent Posts