Whether you have a wine cellar or just a regular fridge, LBV Club member and wine guru Claire Paparazzo is here with a helpful guide for all of your wine storage needs.
Storing wine at the proper temperature is the key to the life of old bottles of wine. This is not to say all old bottles of wine are worth cellaring—a wine’s storage potential has to do with the harvest year, or years (think Krug multi-vintage champagne), prior to bottling. If the wine is not balanced with fruit and acidity to begin with, the outcome may never be what you want. But given ideal weather conditions and the perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acidity, then a wine is in excellent shape to be stored for its life down the road…
The easiest way to think of wine storage is to remember that wine is alive—and like most perishable, alive things, wine needs to be refrigerated. In fact, wine is so fragile that different kinds of wine require different temperatures for serving.
The correct temperatures to serve wine:
All wines can be stored at 55 degrees if you only have one fridge with one setting, but if you have an opportunity to store wine in different fridges, you can keep each kind of wine at its ideal temperature: White wine, 45 to 50 degrees; Red wine, 55 to 65 degrees; Sparkling wine, 40 to 50 degrees.
photo via Pinterest
A wine bottle’s resting position is also important: When storing wine, keep it on its side so that the cork stays moist. You should also always keep wine away from heat or extreme fluctuation in temperature. Keeping the temperature at a consistent 55 degrees will slow down the aging process. Extreme temperature changes, on the other hand, are bad for aging because they can extract and contract the wine, and in turn, push and pull the cork to the point of unsealing, which allows for oxygen to slip in and spoil the wine. I keep my mini wine fridge at 59 degrees, because I keep mostly red wine in there, plus some richer Chenin Blanc-based whites that I drink on the warmer side. My wine, my rules.
photo by © James L. Christy
Storing wine in a cool, dark place like a basement would be my recommendation for those embarking on the journey of starting a cellar. To make it a more professional place to store wine, you can bring in some horizontal wine racks. If you have the opportunity to build a cellar or dedicate an entire closet to your wine store, then maintaining a stable temperature is the goal; installing refrigeration of some sort is ideal. But how you organize it from there depends on your needs. You may want to keep the everyday drinking wine close to the front and store the bottles you are looking to enjoy down the road toward the cellar’s back. Recently, I heard a story that broke my heart: A man in his 70s told me that his father had passed down a first growth Bordeaux to him when he was younger. He had been aging it for several decades, waiting for the right moment to open it, but when that moment came and he went to retrieve this special bottle, he was shocked. It wasn’t that he couldn’t find it—it was off to the side in plain view, but it was empty. He claims it must have been one of his children that had helped themselves and put it back on display, contents gone. My takeaway is: store the good stuff in the back, or at least keep a lock on your cellar door.
photo by Mikael Kennedy via Architectural Digest
If you don’t have space for anything of this size, you can invest in a wine refrigerator—they come in all styles and sizes. In my current apartment, I can only allot a tiny space for wine storage: I have a mini wine fridge that holds eight bottles. I do a lot of wine rotating—I keep the bulk of my bottles at room temperature, away from heat and light, and then move them into the wine fridge a few days before I want to open and enjoy them. In an NYC apartment working with what I have, I also keep all my sparkling wine in my regular refrigerator, although I know this isn’t ideal for long term storage—the vibrations can change the texture of the wine. Honestly, my sparkling is drunk in a month or two, so it’s not a real issue. However, if you do store sparkling wine in your fridge for many years, it may indeed change the texture of the wine, causing lackluster effervescence, or perlage (French for the pearls in the sparkling wine; the finer the pearls, the better the quality).
photo via Hive LA Home
Most restaurants will have at least one wine room, along with other areas to store wine. Most recently, the restaurants I have worked at have had multiple wine rooms and storage areas that have EuroCave large wine fridges, which can hold around 200 bottles. Rotating room temperature wine into the refrigerators to restock and keep a constant flow of the proper temperature wine is crucial. Unfortunately, some places lack the proper refrigeration to keep it all perfect, which upsets me in a work environment. Wine storage at peak beauty—and you will know it when you see it—is when everything has a place, and there is the perfect temperature, with the perfect light. I experienced this sight late last year, when I was taken on a private tour of the wine cellar at the recently closed TAK room. It was one of those aha moments for me—I didn’t even know I could be that moved by organization, but I was utterly struck by this heaven of wine rooms. Everything was so new and clean that it was almost sterile, like an operating room; not a speck of dust. A perfect storage area to keep some truly beautiful bottles of wine.
photo via Foresquare
Keeping wine at cellar temp (that’s what we call it in the industry) can really make a wine shine, and, as we learned, can keep your wine aging for decades.