Complete White Wine Storage Guide: Wine Expert Weighs In


Let’s face it, white wine is so good and loved by a majority of wine enthusiasts. But knowing how and how long to store your wine can seem like a mystery. How should you store white wine so your first sip is everything you want it to be once the cork is popped?

Unopened white wine should be stored in a climate-controlled area at around 50°F, roughly 60% humidity, in a dark, vibration free-zone, bottles lying flat with labels facing up. Opened white wine will last 2-3 days upright in the kitchen refrigerator with a wine stopper.

There is nothing better than a perfectly chilled glass of your favorite white wine. Whether you prefer delightfully sweet, or crisp and dry white wines, there is a basic storage and serving technique to follow in order the get the most out of your glass… (or bottle).

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Storing Unopened White Wines

There are always four basic factors to keep in mind when storing white wines. Temperature, light, humidity, and vibration are the key elements that will definitely have an effect on your vino.

Unopened white wines should be stored between a temperature of 50°-55°F. This temperature is cool enough to preserve the precious compounds of the wine, but also warm enough to let the wine continue to age gracefully. When a wine is kept at a temperature that is too warm for a significant amount of time, it can permanently taint the flavor of the wine and cause a structural imbalance.

It is important to keep your wines out of direct light. Just like improper temperature, sunlight or incandescent light rays can create faults by reacting with the phenolic compounds in the wine. Basically, the darker the storage space, the better.

Heat from the sunlight (or any heat in this case) can also expand the air in the bottle, pushing the cork out, which may lead to oxidation. Humidity is another key element when it comes to storing white wines with corks for a longer period of time. Anywhere between 50-70% humidity is ideal. 

Any drier than 50% humidity could potentially dry out the cork, whilst too much humidity could cause the cork to start growing mold. Luckily with more and more screw caps being used in the wine industry, this erases the humidity problem.

Last but certainly not least, little to no vibration is best. Too much movement disturbs the delicate sediments and the process of biochemical evolution, which affects the wine’s flavor, bouquet, and taste development. Refrigerator doors are one of the worst places to keep your wines, especially if they are constantly being opened and closed.

Wine fridges definitely tick all four of these boxes when it comes down to storing properly. One of the best perks about owning a wine fridge with dual temperature zones is that you can store your daily glass of white a bit chillier while keeping your cellar sleepers at the ideal temp of 50°-55°F. You can have your wine, and drink it too!

My other favorite perk of owning a wine fridge is the cool LED lighting system that is built-in. LED lights do not hurt wines, so you don’t need to worry about picking a bottle to pop open in a rush. My wine fridge is kept in the corner of my living room, and I am a big fan of ambiance. While enjoying my favorite glass of wine on the couch after a long day, I love to turn on the light in the wine fridge to admire my personal collection.

To learn if you need a wine cooler refrigerator to store wine, check out this article. Here, I dispel a lot of myths and explain exactly why a wine cooler is a sound idea.

If you are just not in for a wine fridge at the moment, the next place to store wines that you are not planning on enjoying for a little while is on some wine racks in a cooler, dark place such as a coat closet or a basement (just be sure to watch the humidity in basements).

Wine racks are very affordable, starting from about $20 for a reliable, sturdy rack. In some cases, space is a big issue for some. Don’t panic! There are many wine racks that can be bolted directly onto your wall.

Not only is this very appealing to look at, but really helps give your wines the proper rest that they need, without taking up floor space. Just be sure to place your racks in a cooler room that does not have sunlight constantly streaming in.

Kitchen refrigerators are just fine to keep white wines that will be consumed within the month but are not recommended for long-term storage. The reason being, kitchen fridge temperatures drop well below the proper storage temperature, around 40°-45°F. They are also designed to keep most humidity out to keep the food fresh. After a while, this will become an issue for your wines.

To learn how to store white wine after opening, check out this article I wrote. To discover if wine fridges are only for storing white wine, check out this complete guide I wrote. And for a complete breakdown of how to store wine long-term in 8 simple steps, you need to read this guide I wrote.

Storing Opened White Wines

Once opened, white wines that are stored in a refrigerator typically have a shelf life of to 2-3 days, with the exception of dessert wines. The sweeter the wine is, the longer it will stay fresh. The reason for this is the sugar protects the wine from oxidation, sort of acting as a natural preserver. Some dessert wines that are really sweet, such as Sauternes, can last up to a week before the notice of decline.

There are several ways to keep your wines fresher for longer if you’re the less-than-average drinker. One great way is by using a Coravin. This tool has been a massive game-changer in the wine world. It is basically a device that allows you to have a glass of wine…without ever having to open the bottle!

How is this possible? A needle is simply inserted through the cork, sucking up your desired amount of vino, pouring it straight into your glass. The wine that is drawn out is then replaced by Argon gas, an odorless, harmless gas that is naturally found in the air that we breathe.

Argon gas sits directly on top of the wine’s surface, acting as a blanket to protect the wine from oxygen. A Coravin is on the pricey side, but if you find yourself always pouring out half-consumed bottles of wine, it’s definitely worth looking into.

One major con to the Coravin is that it’s used for bottles with corks only. With more and more wineries ditching the corks, screw caps no longer have the cheap cooking wine bottle topper reputation that they once had.

Not only do screw caps eliminate the chance of the wine being oxidized or “corked”, but new world wines have proven that they can now directly compete with old world wines, and they are not letting the screw cap stop that.

If you want a closer look at a great Coravin model and to read real customer reviews, please check it out here for the latest pricing (link to Amazon).

WineSave is my personal favorite tool when it comes to storing opened wine. Whether the bottle has a cork or screw cap, WineSave is extremely effective. It is 100% food-safe Argon gas that is sprayed directly into your bottle using a rubber hose that is attached to the nozzle. It’s incredibly affordable, ranging around $20 per bottle, and can be used up to 150 times!

If you want to learn much more about storing opened white wine, please check out this comprehensive article we wrote.

Types of White Wines

There are thousands of white grape varieties around the world, made in all kinds of different styles. Some white grapes thrive in cool conditions, while others manage to flourish in a warmer climate just fine. Listed are some of the most common white wines that you can pretty much find anywhere.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is a thick-skinned white grape, boasting high acidity. While many people relate butter or oak to Chardonnay, the main reason for these characteristics comes from the wine maker’s style. It is made in all kinds of styles, from lean and crisp with notes of minerality, to having flavors of tropical fruits and melons.

Chardonnay is also one of the main grape varieties in the Champagne region, with Blanc de Blancs being made out of 100% Chardonnay grapes. Thanks to the high acid levels, some Chardonnays can be stored for a long period of time.

Typically, a moderate-priced Chardonnay will keep at least 2-3 years just fine, with some of the best Chardonnays keeping for 8+ years! It really depends on the bottle of Chardonnay, but age is definitely not an enemy here.

While a normal temperature to serve Chardonnay is between 45°-50°F, I personally love my favorite Mersault served slightly warmer, around 55°F. The warmer temperature really helps to bring out those lovely aromas that you just can’t miss out on.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is also a thicker-skinned grape with high acidity levels. Like Chardonnay, there are many different styles that Sauvignon Blanc can achieve. Grass, zest, and citrus are some of the main characteristics of a Marlborough Sauv Blanc…while minerals, stone fruit, and flint are a trademark in a Pouilly Fume! Sauvignon Blanc is also one of the first wines that have been sold commercially with screw caps.

Similar to rose, many Sauvignon Blancs are made to be consumed without aging. There are exceptions to this, of course. Some Sauvignon Blancs can definitely age a few years without a problem. Many dessert wines are actually made using Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which can be stored for many years.

Sauvignon blanc is generally served at a cooler temperature of about 45°-50°F. This temperature helps to mellow out the racing acidity that this wine is so well known for.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio are in fact the same exact grape. The French know it as Pinot Gris, while the Italians prefer the term Pinot Grigio. This grape has thinner skin, which means it thrives more in a cooler climate where the sunlight is not always beating down. The thinner the skin of a grape, the more likely it is to be fried to a crisp (or in this case, a raisin)

As for acidity, Pinot Gris tends to be lower in acidity and higher in sugar content. This could be tricky when trying to achieve a dry, balanced wine. Did you know that Pinot Gris grapes aren’t actually white? (Gasp!) The grapes are between a pinkish greyish color, hence the name Pinot Gris (Gris meaning grey in French).

This wine should certainly be served at a cooler temperature of about 45°F. Pinot Gris is meant to be refreshing, sometimes with a slight sweetness, carrying nice notes of green apple and pear. Pinot Gris is not meant to be aged for the long term, and should typically be consumed within a couple of years of purchasing.

Riesling

Riesling is a delicate grape that has thinner skin, but is packed with acidity. It originates from the Rhine region of Germany, thriving in cold temperatures. Over the years, it has adapted to warmer climates such as Australia, with the skins being nearly 7 times as thick as the German varietal!

There are countless styles of Riesling, from super sweet sticky dessert wines, to dry, zingy, refreshing styles. Famous aromatics of Riesling include lime peel, petroleum, apples, and honey. It is a perfect companion to spicy foods.

Riesling should be served cooler, but not too cool, around 48°F. This temperature is perfect in revealing the bouquet of aromas that the wine has to offer, yet is a pleasant, refreshing temperature that masks the alcohol scent.

Riesling is a great wine when it comes to aging. The razor-sharp acidity is a great backbone that will keep the wine from becoming flat over the years. Acidity is truly the foundation of a white wine, while tannins are that of red wine. Some Rieslings will last beautifully for at least 20 years if stored in ideal cellaring conditions.

Gewurtztraminer

Gewurtztraminer is similar to the Pinot Gris grape in the sense of thin skin, and low acidity. This wine is made sweet and dry, with very powerful aromatics. Roses, lychees, ginger, and orange peel are just a few aromas that this wine showcases. Gewurtztraminer has a lovely spice to the palate at times as well, making it a true delight to enjoy. In Alsace, Gewurtztraminer is the second most planted grape and the one most characteristic in the entire region.

This wine should be served cooler, at a temperature of about 48°F. When it comes to storing, some Gewurtztraminers can last up to 10 years from their best years.

So what’s the verdict when it comes to how long to store white wines for? This all depends on the grape varietal

How to Tell When a White Wine Has Gone Bad

One of the most obvious ways to find out if a white wine has gone bad is the smell. A wine that has “expired” will have a vinegar, musty, wet cardboard, or old basement smell to it.  A heavy raisin smell is not a good sign either.

If you’ve been cellaring a white wine for a few years, and it develops a darker amber-like tint, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has gone bad. Always be sure to smell a wine for reassurance before writing it off.

I’ve been fortunate enough to try some very aged white wines that definitely don’t have the most pleasant color to them, only to end up being some of the finest wines that I have ever tasted. Another false alarm of a wine being tainted is if it has tartaric acid crystals at the bottom of the bottle.

Although they are not appealing to drink, they are completely harmless. Tartaric acid crystals form when the potassium and tartaric acid bind, creating tiny crystals…also known as “wine diamonds”. Think of it as the sediment of white wine.

and the quality of the wine of course. A backyard barbecue Sauvignon Blanc should be enjoyed within 6 months of purchase, while a 2012 German Riesling from a top producer can be stored for many years.

Should White Wine Be Decanted?

Speaking in technical terms, white wines cannot be decanted. However, they certainly can be carrafed. What’s the difference? Decanting is when the sediment is separated from wine while aerating the wine. Carrafing is just aerating the wine since the majority of white wines do not have sediment, other than tartaric acid crystals.

One way to tell if your wine will benefit from being carrafed is by pouring some in a glass, give it a smell, and then swirl it in the glass and smell it again. If the aromas opened up much more in the second smell, the wine will benefit from being carrafed.

It is better to use a carafe that is not too wide, so it can be placed in an ice bucket to keep the wine cool, just like a bottle would.

White wine should be served in certain glasses according to the varietal. Glasses make a world of a difference when it comes to how the wine will taste. When I was studying wine in France, the president of Riedel Glassware came to our class to put this theory to the test. 

He poured the same wine into three different glasses, and it was like magic. The same wine tasted completely different! The trick is how the wine falls onto the tongue and palate. Chardonnay is known to be round and buttery, with a rich, mouth-coating feel. This is why Chardonnay should be consumed out of larger, rounder glasses.

On the other hand, a Riesling, for example, should be consumed out of a smaller glass because of the high acidity and very crisp texture. Very sharp acidity will not be so pleasant around the entire mouth.

I highly suggest purchasing a few different sized wine glasses and find out what you prefer. After all, there are no wrong ways to drink wine as long as you love it! Sante!

Katarina Jelks

Katarina is a professionally trained sommelier and wine enthusiast from Hawaii, receiving her Wine & Management Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She has worked in the wine industry all around the world, including France, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. She is soon to be opening a wine and cheese bar in Honolulu to fulfill her lifelong goal of sharing her passion with others, chasing their thirst for interesting wine and great food. Please check out her Instagram profile @bleuroosterhonolulu.

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