While you may be inclined to stick your wine straight in the cupboard or the fridge the second you get it home from the shops, storing the bottle correctly is crucial for getting the best value for your vino, no matter the vintage.
Preserving your wine well can not only improve the taste, but its resale value, particularly in the case of fine wine; indeed, it is generally recommended to store expensive wine in the controlled conditions provided by a professional cellarer. As wine brokers The London Wine Cellar note, poor storage causes air to enter the bottle, lowering the fill level and causing “ullage, [which] indicates the wine could have been oxidised and thus turned into vinegar”, rendering it undrinkable.
The things you need to bear in mind are easy to put into place, and you don’t need any specialist gear or a proper wine cellar to keep your wine at peak condition. That said, you could be forgiven for making some small mistakes which could have big consequences when it comes to making sure your wine stays fine. Here are three of the most common.
Overexposure to light
As with many food and drink items, exposure to direct sunlight will have a majorly detrimental effect on wine. This damage comes from UV rays, which can have a negative impact on the tannins contained in wine. These chemicals are what give wine its dry and bitter feel, and are also found in tea and dark chocolate. Although they are sometimes found in white wine, depending on how it has been aged, it is mainly red wine which features the highest concentration of tannins, and the longer a bottle of wine has been left in sunlight, the more likely the taste will be compromised as a result.
To a degree, winemakers have planned ahead for this, which is why bottles of tannin-rich red wine come in darker bottles, as this offers further shielding against UV rays in sunlight. However, despite the protection offered by the bottles, it is still not advisable to leave your wine too close to a window or in too brightly-lit an area. Indeed, according to Wine Folly, it only takes an hour for overexposure to light to ruin the contents of a bottle.
Storing your wine at the wrong temperature
Of course, storing your wine in direct sunlight will have an impact on the temperature within the bottle. Whilst keeping your wine at extreme temperatures will wreck it, keeping your bottles in a space which has a variable temperature is particularly dangerous. If you are able to keep your wine in a part of your house which maintains a consistent temperature, you should set up your collection of bottles there.
A fluctuating temperature will cause the wine to be subject to the natural growth and shrinkage that any liquid would. This eventually reduces the overall amount of wine in the bottle, which runs the risk of drying out the cork, especially if you have stored your wine vertically rather than horizontally.
Keeping your wine upright
First thing’s first: If the majority of the wine in your house has a screwtop, then keeping your wine stored upright is absolutely no problem. The sealing capabilities of a screwtop bottle of wine will remove any of the issues which we are about to outline. For wines which have a cork stopper, however, storing wine in an upright position will actually have a detrimental effect on its taste and overall quality.
Regardless of how your bottle is sealed, keeping wine stored on its side will keep the cork of your bottle in contact with the wine, reducing the risk of it drying out. A dry cork is a sign that too much air has been let into the bottle, thus potentially oxidising the wine and reducing the quality of your bottle. Consequently, if you’ve stored your wine on its side, it will matter less if you haven’t made any provisions around keeping it at a consistent temperature, though both precautions are recommended.
Making these mistakes doesn’t guarantee that your carefully curated collection of bottles will be undrinkable. However, the sooner you store your bottle correctly, the more likely it will be that your wine can be kept in the best condition it can be. Happy drinking!