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There are many factors to consider when it comes to storing wine. Wine refrigerators or wine coolers seem to tick all of the right boxes, but what do you do if you don’t have one? Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your wines in tip-top shape when a wine fridge is just not an option.
Proper Wine Storage without a Wine Fridge
1. Categorize Your Wine Bottles to Ensure Proper Storage
2. Ideal Conditions with 50-55°F Temperature & 70% Humidity
3. A Kitchen Refrigerator Can be a Good for Ready-to-Drink Wine
4. Wine Racks are Great, Inexpensive Options
5. Basements & Closets Can Have Great Conditions for Wine
6. Long-Term Wine Storage Services May Be Available
7. Wine Can Be Stored Under Beds or Inside Dressers
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4 Factors to Consider for Proper Wine Storage
Ideal storage conditions for wines always revolve around temperature, light, humidity, and vibration.
Storing temperature should be between 50-55°F. This is cool enough to preserve the wines while being warm enough to let the wines continue to age gracefully.
Little to no light holds the structure of the wine together. Too much light exposure destroys the phenolic and chemical compounds of the wine, causing it to become imbalanced.
The ideal humidity level for wines is between 50-80%, as this is humid enough to keep the cork from drying out, yet not humid enough for mold to start growing in the cork.
The less vibration that wine bottles have, the better. Vibration has been proven to increase the level of propanol in wine, thus reducing aromatics. Too much vibration also raises the isoamyl alcohol, which accentuates acetone notes. Bad vibes just got a whole new meaning.
Prioritize Your Bottles
A basic fact that we can all agree upon is that wines are all different. Therefore, they age differently. For example, a dry, light rose from Provence is meant to be drunk usually within a year of being released.
On the contrary, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon almost always benefits from a few years in the cellar, especially if it hails from a good vintage.
With this in mind, it’s important to use the correct storage method for the correct bottle if you do not have a wine fridge.
Bottles that are meant to be consumed young, such as a rose, Beaujolais, or Pinot Grigio, will store just fine in the kitchen refrigerator. Wines that are going to be long-term sleepers are better off being stored in a dark coat closet or basement on wine racks.
If you live in an apartment or have limited storage space, this helpful article on the 7 Wine Storage Hacks for Small Spaces will really help you out. This was one that was recently published on my site and very well researched.
How To Store Unopened Wine without A Wine Fridge
Many people turn to their kitchen refrigerators to store wine if they don’t own a wine fridge (or a luxurious cellar in the convenience of their own home). This does not mean that it is the best place to store those long-term bottles, though.
While the ideal temperature to store wines is around 55°F, kitchen fridges tend to drop well below that, usually around 45°F. This makes a significant difference in how your wines will age.
Kitchen fridges are also designed to keep moisture out to keep the food fresh. If a wine is kept for too long in the refrigerator, the cork could begin to dry out, causing the wine to spoil.
With that being said, more and more wineries are ditching the corks and using screw caps. Screw caps do not allow any air or moisture in or out of the bottle, solving the humidity problem.
So which wines should be stored in the refrigerator? I recommend storing wines that are going to be consumed within a couple of weeks of purchase.
This is not nearly enough time for the wines to be destroyed by the cooler temperature or humidity level. Your favorite glass of house wine that’s waiting for you at the end of a long workday will be perfectly fine in the fridge.
Wine racks are a great choice for long or short-term storage because they can be placed anywhere, whether that may be in a dark, cool closet or a damp, chilly basement.
Most wine racks are stackable as well, resolving the space issue that so many of us have. Wine bottles should always be stored laying on their side, this allows the sediment to gently settle while the liquid remains in contact with the cork to keep it from drying out.
Wine racks do a great job of steadily keeping bottles from rolling around while laying down. While you should always store your wine racks out of direct light and heat, there are certain wine racks that can even be mounted directly onto the wall. This creates a beautiful and easily accessible display of your vino bottles, even if it is in a coat closet.
Nooks and Crannies
Many of us who are perhaps just starting a wine collection (or trying to) may be stumped when it comes to actually purchasing a wine fridge. With a little creativity, it is perfectly capable to store wines without the storage price.
Here are a few common places around your home or apartment that could makeshift as a storage place while you build your dream collection;
Drawers and cabinets that are not near heat are a great place to hide your wines from the direct light, as well as keep them safe and secure. I recommend using bottom drawers and cabinets rather than higher ones. Heat always rises, so the closer to the ground, the better.
Underneath the bed or couch may not be the most convenient location when reaching for your favorite bottle, but this is a sure place to keep your wines out of the way, in a darker and slightly cooler temperature.
Inside opening ottomans or chests are useful for smaller homes that don’t have enough separate storage rooms or closets. As long as your multi-use furniture doesn’t get moved or bumped too much, your wines will continue to age gracefully.
Storing Opened Bottles without a Wine Fridge
No matter if wines are opened or not, it is always preferred to store them properly in a wine fridge to keep them at the proper temperature of 55°F.
However, since opened wines only have a certain amount of time because of the extra contact with oxygen, don’t sweat it too much if you do not have room for both in your wine fridge.
Once a wine has been opened, it usually has a shelf life of somewhere between 3-5 days before it spoils. It is better to store opened wines in a refrigerator than putting them back on your wine racks, or just leaving them on the countertop.
The colder temperature will not stop the wine from spoilage completely, but it slows down the process tremendously.
Similar to perishable foods, once they’re opened, we refrigerate them. Treat your wines the same way. If you find yourself opening a bottle of wine but have the recurring problem of finishing off the entire bottle in one sitting, it’s definitely worthwhile to look into purchasing a Coravin.
This is possible by inserting a needle through the cork, which ends up sucking out the desired amount of wine. It then pushes a small amount of argon gas into the bottle.
The argon gas gently sits afloat the wine in the bottle, protecting it from oxygen. Argon gas is naturally found in the air that we breathe, and it does not affect the wine at all.
Coravins are on the pricier side, but if you catch yourself pouring out half-open bottles of wine way too often, it could definitely be a worthwhile investment.
One thing that we must keep in mind is that not all wines have corks, though. Screw caps are growing more and more in popularity each year due to the amount of money and convenience they save the wineries. Not only are screw caps cheaper than corks, but they save a fair percent of wine from being corked.
Corks have very small pores that slowly cause oxygen to leak into the bottle, whilst screw caps seal the bottle closed completely. Corks are also more sensitive to moisture, or not enough moisture. This is not an issue at all with screw caps.
A great solution to keeping open bottles with screw caps longer is a little thing called Winesave. Winesave is essentially 100% argon gas that is sprayed directly into the bottle using a little rubber nozzle, and that’s it! It’s not too expensive if you’re on a budget, extremely easy to use, and lasts for a long time with up to 150 uses!
When it comes to storing open bottles of Champagne, there are a lot of theories on how to do it, but not all are correct. For example, a well-known “hack” is to put a metal spoon into a bottle of bubbly.
This is completely false! In fact, a bottle of Champagne will stay fizzier if left completely open in the refrigerator longer than if there is a spoon inserted into it.
One thing that definitely does work is a Champagne stopper. Stoppers come in many affordable price ranges, from $5 to $30. Using a stopper and keeping your bottle in the refrigerator can keep your bubbles lively for a solid 4-5 days.
The Truth About Wine Fridges
The fact that wine fridges keep wines in perfect aging conditions is no secret. With this being said, a lot of wine lovers don’t have one. How come?
Price plays a big role in decision-making when it comes to purchasing a wine fridge. Unless you somehow manage to score a super sweet deal, you’ll likely be looking at prices that are well into the hundreds of dollars.
Many people just don’t think that owning a wine fridge is worth the price. There are a few things to consider, though. How much do you spend on wine annually?
A good rule of thumb to go by is if the wine fridge costs less than 25% of your annual wine-buying budget, it is worth investing in. Not only will your wines be protected from environmental factors, but a wine fridge does so efficiently and affordably.
If you are a collector of the more extravagant gems, such as a near $300 bottle of Tenuta San Guido ‘Sassicaia’, you want all of the protection you can get!
Without a cellar built into your home (like so many of us), a wine fridge is the only other way to get close to perfect cellaring conditions.
Space could easily be another issue that stops one from getting a wine fridge. That was certainly the case for me in the past. While a 36 bottle wine fridge does require more space, there are 6 – 12 bottle wine fridges that could be placed directly on your countertop!
These little beauties are very energy efficient, not to mention an attractive display for your wines. As previously mentioned, with prioritizing your bottles right, this could be the perfect wine fridge to keep those extra special wines in.
Ultimately, wine fridges take care of the necessities that your bottles need to age beautifully while maintaining their structure and balance. If you are in the right place to invest in one, it is definitely worth it.
If space or price issues for you at the moment, with proper care there are definitely other ways to go about storing your bottles.
The four most important elements to keep in mind when storing wine are a cooler temperature (about 50-55°F), darkness, humidity (between 50-80%), and little to no vibration.
If you want to learn just how necessary a wine fridge is for proper wine storage, I think you will learn a lot from this helpful article I wrote.
With a little persistence, your dream collection is on its way. Cheers!