When I’m asked how long a certain wine can age, I almost always say: there are too many factors to offer an answer on the spot. Of these factors, the way the particular bottle was stored is among the most important. This doesn’t mean that you need fancy equipment or a storage rental in order to keep your wine safe and sound. By following the tips below, you’ll be able to get maximum enjoyment from each bottle no matter if you’re drinking it upon release or cellaring it for a decade!
Temperature-wise, anywhere in the middle is fine. Sure, a fifty-seven-degree wine fridge is ideal. With it, you’ll be able to chill your whites down a few degrees from there in just a few minutes, while red that should be served a little bit warmer will come up in temperature with just a few minutes in a glass. But a specialized fridge is not necessary. Avoiding extremes is really what we are going for. Avoid spaces that could potentially be frosty in the winter or above seventy-five degrees in the summer. Try to move your wine to a spot with a moderate temperature prior to any extreme weather events.
Change is hard. We all know this. While storing your wine in a spot that isn’t too hot and isn’t too cold is important, you’ll want to avoid moving your wine if you don’t have to. Once a year is fine in order to ensure it isn’t subject to a damaging temperature, but in general you should let your wine rest. Constant movement can break down compounds responsible for structure and flavor.
Sideways isn’t just the name of a wine movie, it’s also the way that almost all wines should be stored, if they are going to be kept for more than a few months. By laying a wine bottle down, the wine itself stays in touch with the cork, ensuring that the cork stays intact and doesn’t crumble. It also keeps any sediment in one place on the side of the bottle, so it can be removed by carefully decanting the wine. (See Wine 201!)
Too much sun can be harmful for people—and for wine. In fact, damage can occur to a wine that is exposed to sunlight for just a few hours, regardless of temperature. Wine bottled in clear glass is even more susceptible to damage, but the ultraviolet rays of the sun can make their way right through green glass bottles in no time at all, too. This causes an irreversible chemical reaction that can make a wine smell terrible. Since sunscreen won’t work here, it’s important to keep your wine in a dark spot.
Make sure to save the cork, especially if you are only having a couple of glasses of the bottle. There are numerous expensive gizmos on the market intended to extend the life of an open bottle, but I’ve found one low-tech solution that works just as well, if not better than them all. After pouring yourself a glass, push the cork all the way back in the bottle. Not half way—all of the way. Then, pop the bottle in the fridge. The cold environment allows much less interaction with oxygen than a room temperature environment. Pull the bottle out about forty-five minutes before you’re ready to enjoy your next glass of red and remove the cork once more. This method should keep the wine fresh for about six days, compared to the usual forty-eight-hour shelf life for an opened bottle.
Interested in learning more about wine storage, preservation, and ageability? Grab a few friends or co-workers and sign up for Wine 201 here.