Wine deserves to be enjoyed at its best, and whether you have six or 60 bottles, you’ll want to make sure they’re stored in as good a condition as possible before you get round to serving them.
Proper wine storage can be a serious business, but most people won’t have the luxury of, a wine cellar – or space to create one.
You might also feel that even a wine cooler is a bit extravagant for the few bottles you buy in every week or so.
Wine cellars and coolers can take the thinking out of wine storage, but if they’re not for you then these five simple steps can help you to work out where and how to store your wine at home .
If you are considering a dedicated wine storage appliance, our wine cooler reviews can help you find the best model to suit your budget and needs.
1. Store it at the right temperature
Of all the factors that can have a damaging effect on wine during storage, temperature fluctuation probably poses the biggest threat. Extremes of hot or cold are a sure fire way to spoil your wine.
In general, the ideal temperature for long-term wine storage is around 13ºC. But if you’re storing mid to short-term you’ll be fine keeping them within a range of 7ºC to 18ºC.
Stability is key and if the temperature in your storage spot is in danger of rising above 20ºC then you could run into problems.
So you can probably rule out somewhere in your kitchen, and definitely anywhere close to radiators in the house.
Dark cupboards, often under the stairs if you have some, are a good option.
To locate the best spot, you might consider putting a thermometer in an area for a few days to test conditions, checking at different times of the day to see if there’s a variance in temperature.
2. Don’t keep your wine in the fridge long term
The ideal temperature in a fridge should be somewhere between 0ºC to 5ºC, which will ensure your fresh food is at its best for longest.
But that’s too cold for long-term wine storage, plus the dry environment inside will likely compromise the cork after a few months, leading to a ruined drink.
Strong odours from food kept in the fridge could also have a negative impact on the quality of your wine, while long-term exposure to the vibrations from the compressor won’t do it any good either.
A few days or weeks in the fridge isn’t going to be a problem, but also keep in mind to take the bottle out a little while before serving it to give it a chance to warm up.
White wines are best served at a temperature somewhere between 7-11°C, depending on the grape variety (or varieties) that the wine has been made from.
These lower temperatures help accentuate the acidity, enhancing the freshness and crispness associated with a really good white.
But if the temperature gets too cold the flavours become dulled, so a short while to warm up at room temperature before you drink it will help you get the most out of the flavours and aromas.
All that said, if your only storage options are a warm room or the fridge, then keeping it colder is always your better bet.
3. Keep bottles on their sides
If you tend to favour bottles with natural corks, make sure you keep them stored horizontally, especially if you’re planning on storing them long term.
This way the cork will stay in contact with the wine, keeping it moist and swollen and preventing it from drying out.
A dried out cork can compromise the seal and let air inside the bottle, which will quickly spoil your wine.
This practice is essential to maintaining the quality of your wine if you’re planning on keeping bottles unopened for a good length of time. A small portable wine rack would be perfect for this.
For mid-term storage or soon-to-be-drunk bottles it’s not as much of a concern, but storing sideways certainly won’t do any harm.
Of course, if your favourite wines have screw tops or synthetic corks it’s also not something you’ll have to worry about.
All this talk of wine got you feeling thirsty? Check out our wine pairings guide to find the perfect bottle to go with your meal.
4. Don’t obsess about humidity
Unless you’re planning on storing wines for many years and you live in desert or arctic conditions, getting hung up on humidity levels is probably unnecessary.
Specialists recommend storing wine somewhere that has between 50-80% humidity, with 70% considered the sweet spot.
Low humidity could lead to a dried-out cork, while damp conditions can promote mould and condensation which could spoil the labels.
But most households will sit within that recommended range, so your wine should be fine during short to mid-term storage.
If you really want to nail it down, you could buy a joint thermometer/hygrometer to help you identify the spots in your house with the most suitable temperature and humidity levels.
Of course if you’re paying money for storage then you deserve to have it kept as close to that humidity sweet spot as possible, which is why we measure the humidity levels in each wine cooler we test.
5. Keep it in the dark
Sunlight in particular is bad news for your wine and constant exposure to it can quickly change the flavour of your wine for the worse.
With its clearer glass bottles, white wine is particularly susceptible to light damage.
If you don’t have suitable cupboard space and want to make use of a wine rack on a counter, make sure you position it out of the line of direct sunlight.
If you decide to opt for a wine cooler, you might want to consider a model that has UV protective glass on the door, although you’ll have to spend a bit extra for this feature.
Read our guide on how to buy the best wine cooler explains the different types and features available, as well as the ideal storage temperatures for different varieties of wine.
Now test your knowledge in our wine quiz
Take our quick quiz to see if you’re well on your way to becoming a sommelier or whether you should keep your distance from the wine menu.