How to Store Wine at Home
One of the most frequent questions I receive as a wine educator is how to store wine at home. My typical response is don’t bother. Only about 1% of the world’s wine is going to improve with age. Wines that can improve need special care, attention and the right conditions.
The tradition of ageing wine dates back to a time when most wines were undrinkable. To soften the harsh tannins and allow for solids and other impurities to sink to the bottom of the container, these wines had to sit for years.
Today, we make wines that are drinkable much earlier. Who says you will even like a 10 year old bottle of wine anyway. After all that time the fruit fades and the savory tertiary aromas and flavors start to dominate. Remember: older does not mean better. Most of us prefer fresh fruit and clarity in a wine.
This being said, there are many white and red wines that to deserve to be aged. Sometimes even 6-9 months can help a wine dramatically and less often they need a one or more years. In this case, do choose with care. Either read up on the specific wine and vintage and/or seek professional advice. One of the hardest things for me to teach a wine lover is how to assess a wine’s ability to age. Much of this lies in lots of tasting practice and personal preference.
I often buy a 6 bottle case of wine. The 6 bottle case is the typical method of sales here in France vs. the 12 bottle case elsewhere. I open one bottle straightaway only after a brief rest of 3-4 weeks in my cellar. If you enjoy drinking it now, go for it and drink away. But if you feel like the wine is too tightly wound or too tannic, or if you find it complex and think it may have more to offer; wait. Try drinking one bottle from the case each 6-12 months and see how the wine progresses. It’s up to you and what your tastes are.
For long-term storage, you need a place with constant temperature:
- Under your bed in your Manhattan apartment
- In a closet under your stairs in your home
- A natural cellar or even a long-term storage wine cellar dialed in to a constant temperature of roughly 12ºC/55ºF.
- For large quantities, seek storage in wine specific bonded warehouses.
But do not get so hung up on the exact temperature. The most important thing is that where you store your wine does not experience huge spikes or dips in temperature throughout the year. Generally, in an apartment, this would be a place like an interior closet far from radiators or air conditioning ducts. In a home, a natural underground cellar or dark pantry or closet will also suffice.
This place should also be completely dark as light is one of wine’s worst enemies and can dramatically affect its flavor.
And remember, most wine is meant for immediate pleasure, so go out and buy and bottle and enjoy it tonight!
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You are so right about keeping the wine in a dark place. It worked great when we tried.