Zinfandel is growing in popularity and many new and experienced wine lovers are really starting to explore it. But storing zinfandel can seem like a tricky nut to crack. So how is zinfandel properly stored?
Zinfandel should be stored at 55°-59° F with a humidity of 70% in complete darkness in a wine refrigerator or wine cellar. Lighter-bodied zinfandels can be stored for 3-5 years and fuller-bodied zinfandel wines are ideally stored up 10 years.
For a complete breakdown of the best storage practices for both light and full-bodied zinfandel, you really need to read on. This article was researched and written by an experienced wine professional who really knows her wine.
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Zinfandel is a medium to very full-bodied red wine with (typically) high alcohol content and flavors of sweet ripe berries. Zinfandel pairs well with seafood and especially a dish like fish stew since the zinfandel flavors accentuate the seafood textures beautifully.
The dark blue zinfandel grape is used to make this bold red wine. Red zinfandel has blueberry, jam, black pepper, plum, boysenberry, and cranberry as its primary flavors. When you taste zinfandel you will find candied fruitiness followed by spice and a smoky-like finish.
Storing Unopened Zinfandel
The ideal storing temperature for red zinfandel is 55°–59° F, preferably in a cellar, room, or cabinet. Perhaps more important than worrying about an exact temperature range, is avoiding any extreme temperature swings. The expansion and contraction of the liquid inside the bottle is a bad thing.
Aiming for consistency is better than worrying about minor temperature fluctuations. Consistency also means not re-storing the wine. So if you have gotten the temperature ready to serve or if you have aerated it and you took it out to drink, go ahead and enjoy it.
What you will hear and read oftentimes is that wines should be stored at an ideal humidity level of 70%. This theory alleges that dry air will dry out the cork letting air into the bottle and spoiling the wine.
While this does happen, it really only happens if you live in very desert-like hot or very cold conditions. Anything between 50-80% humidity is considered safe. Placing a pan of water in your storing area can definitely improve the conditions.
However, extremely damp conditions can promote mold. Mold won’t affect a wine if it’s sealed properly, but it will damage the label. If the label is important to you, a dehumidifier can fix that problem.
For longer-term zinfandel storage, you will want to store bottles laying down if your bottle has a cork. If you’re planning on drinking your wine in the near future or even the mid-to-near future, or if the bottles have alternative closures such as screw caps, glass, or plastic closures, then it is not necessary to store a wine bottle on its side.
Traditionally bottles have been stored on their sides, in order to keep the liquid up against the cork, keeping the cork from drying out. Either way, horizontal storage (also called racking the wines) won’t hurt the wine! In addition, horizontal racking is definitely a space saver when storing your wine.
For a complete review of when to store wine bottles horizontally and vertically, please check out this helpful article I wrote.
Light, and especially sunlight, pose a problem for long-term wine storage. The UV rays of the sun degrade and prematurely age wine.
Most wine bottles are colored to help this problem with tinted glass. The glass will deflect some of the sunlight from the wine. It is not perfect though so you are much better off keeping your zinfandel in darkness.
For a complete guide to protecting your wine from sunlight and how sunlight can destroy wine, please check out this helpful article I wrote.
Where to Store Zinfandel Unopened
Some simple racks in a safe place will be sufficient if you don’t have a fancy wine cellar. The laundry room and boiler room are not good ideas for zinfandel wine storage. The hot temperatures can affect your wine. Additionally, these locations are prone to commotion and small vibrations that could damage wine.
Also, as mentioned above, don’t pick a place with large windows that put your wine directly in the sun. Your kitchen could be a good location for wine storage as long as you have a good wine refrigerator to keep the conditions surrounding your wine constant. I definitely would not store wine on an open-air wine rack in the kitchen if you want good wine long-term.
Don’t store unopened wine for more than a few weeks in a kitchen fridge. These appliances are too cold for proper wine storage and too dry. They can damage your cork and allow air into age your wine prematurely. Additionally, a kitchen fridge produces tiny micro-vibrations that can stir up the wine and ruin it.
A wine refrigerator or cooler may be a great investment as well, following the same guidelines we outlined above. For example, If you keep your wine fridge in a cooler place, it won’t have to work quite as hard (as it would if you kept it in the laundry room or kitchen).
A good wine refrigerator can keep your Zinfandel and other wines at the proper temperature range, keep good even humidity, produce no wine-damaging vibrations, and maintain constant conditions. Furthermore, wine fridges have tinted glass doors to keep inside dark which is ideal for long-term storage.
There are a ton of great wine refrigerators on the market but this 24 bottle model is one you need to look at. It used compressor cooling technology to evenly distribute cool air to your bottles and is very reliable. Check it out on Amazon to view current pricing and read customer reviews.
Length of Time for Zinfandel to be Stored
The length of time for storage of red zinfandel depends on the style of the wine. For the sake of discussion, we will divide red zinfandel into two categories.
Light Red Zinfandel
Lighter-bodied zinfandels can be stored for 3-5 years. Lighter red zinfandels have lower alcohol content (less than 12.5 percent). They also have less tannin than their fuller-bodied counterparts. (Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in grape skins that give the wine more aging capabilities).
Full-Bodied Red Zinfandel
Fuller-bodied zinfandels can be stored up to 10 years. It’s important to remember, this is not an exact science. Full-bodied red zinfandel wines have more complex flavors, a richer mouth feel, and are higher in alcohol (some reaching 13.5 percent).
Because of these compounds mentioned above (tannins derived from the skin and seeds) the wine is shielded from oxygen – the enemy in the premature aging process.
Storing Zinfandel after Opening
Store opened zinfandel with cork or stopper in place upright within a kitchen refrigerator. If done properly, you can get 1-2 weeks out of fuller-bodied zinfandel and 3-5 days out of light-bodied ones.
Along the same lines as the unopened storage for fuller-bodied zinfandels vs. storage for light-bodied zinfandels, the same rules apply.
A fuller-bodied zin will last 1-2 weeks while a light-bodied red zin will last 3-5 days. Again, this is not an exact science. Because the light-bodied red zin has been opened for longer than 5 days, don’t throw it out until you try it. It may still be delicious.
Do your best to shove the original cork back in or use a wine stopper. You want to keep oxygen from getting at your wine. The more oxygen you can keep out, the better your wine will last. If your bottle has a screw-cap, then that will work great as well.
Be sure to keep your opened zinfandel cool. A kitchen fridge is a great option for opened wine. I would never recommend a kitchen fridge for an unopened bottle of wine because it is too cold, too dry, and too susceptible to vibrations for good long-term storage.
But for opened zinfandel, you can really benefit from that very cool temperature environment. I would argue a kitchen fridge is the best place to store an opened bottle of wine and make it last a few extra days.
Wine Preservation Openers
The Coravin is a great option for both opening wine and keeping it fresh long after your first sip. Greg Lambrecht, a medical device inventor with a passion for wine and technology, created a product that allowed him to enjoy glasses of wine without committing to the whole bottle.
In order to pour wine without removing the cork, a tiny surgical–grade needle is driven through the cork and pulls out the wine. Argon gas, which is safe and tasteless, is pumped into the bottle, ensuring that no oxygen enters. The cork reseals itself when the needle is removed, and the bottle can be placed back onto the rack.
Touted as a game-changer in the wine world, the contraption called a Coravin allows wine lovers to taste their wines without opening them or allowing any air into the bottle. To check out current pricing on Amazon, please click here to view the Coravin Model 2 product page.
Other (Affordable) Wine Preservation Systems
There are many other wine preservation systems out there ranging from manual vacuum wine bottle preservers and re-sealers to preservers that accommodate multiple bottles at once.
The manual vacuum type is perfect for casual and effective zinfandel wine preservation. You can also use a special “stopper” that seals the wine and protects it from the air like a “Vacu Vin wine saver”. Once you want to open the wine again and enjoy the rest of the bottle, you press on the top of the stopper to let the air in and release it.
A “pump” is also a popular option. Much like the manual vacuum you use the pump after putting on the stopper. In other words, the pump is adding a little extra protection from the air by pumping the stopper which moves it down into the bottle as much as possible. These can all be very good options for zinfandels and other wine categories.
Serving temperatures for Zinfandel
Red Zinfandel (as with all red wines) is traditionally served at “room temperature”. However, the ideal “room temperature” for red wines is not necessarily the same as the ideal temp for humans.
Ideally, reds are served between 65° F and 72° F – much cooler than that of a typical summer day. Even with this ideal colder temperature, red zinfandel wines are still not at their best when served well-chilled like white wines. This is because zinfandel’s higher tannin and weight lock-in aromas and flavors at cold temperatures making them taste flat.
Easier drinking red zinfandels (light-bodied) are probably best enjoyed even closer to 60-65° F degrees (if stored in a room above 70°, chill 30 – 60 minutes in the refrigerator) than heavier red zinfandels.
However, even the heaviest red zinfandels are not enjoyable if served too warm (80° or higher). Hot temperatures give out a dominant smell of alcohol from the wine. Putting your nose over a bottle like this can negatively accentuate the alcohol and give what’s known as a “nasal burn”.
When red wine is “hot” it can give the wine a dull, flat taste because whatever flavors are in the wine are masked – rendering it tasteless. When making red zinfandel, winemakers work hard to produce its complexities and bring out the natural fruit qualities of the zinfandel grape. Hot temperatures detract from all that.