Let’s say you don’t have a wine cellar handy that keeps your wines in their perfect state until you’re ready to enjoy them. You can still store wine successfully, especially if you’re only holding onto your wine short-term.
What is the correct way to store wine? The correct way to store wine is in a cool, dark place without many temperature fluctuations.
If you know your wine basics, you know light and temperature are the key elements to keep wine tasting its best for up to a few years. Beyond that, it’s more important that you’re buying a high-quality wine meant for aging.
Storing vs. Aging
Most types of wine are meant for your enjoyment within a year or 2 of purchase. Wait too long and the wine you enjoyed at a wine tasting can taste dramatically different once it’s opened.
How long can wine be stored? Many wines can be stored for several years, but there are ideal ranges when you compare varietals.
- Rosé and white wines: 1-2 years
- Red wine: 2-3 years
- Sparkling wine: 3-4 years
- Fortified wine: 10-20 years
There are certainly exceptions to these timeframes. Some vintage wines can stay in storage for up to a decade. The expiration date on a wine bottle can tell you quite a bit. Most red wines are fine for up to 2 years past that printed date. Don’t go past a year with white wine.
If your wine is missing an expiration date, look for the vintage. Drink your wine within a year or 2 of that vintage date.
If you really want to explore the wine aging process, you need to start out with the right bottle.
How do you know how long to age a wine? How long to age a wine depends on the varietal. Generally, an inexpensive bottle of red or white wine is not ideal for aging.
Seek out winemakers that specialize in vintages meant for aging beyond a decade. Balanced red wines with a moderate level of acidity and tannins are usually best. Some vintage champagnes with a higher alcohol content and chardonnays are also a good fit for aging.
Again, it’s important to note that the vast majority of wine shop varietals aren’t meant for long-term aging. Even in the short-term, though, there are best practices for storing wine.
Bottled wine likes a consistent temperature. A wine refrigerator is great if you can get it because you can set the right temperature and forget about it until it’s time to open the bottle.
A wine fridge or wine cooler also comes with some built-in protection against UV rays. It turns out UV rays aren’t good for your skin or your wine.
Is it OK to store wine in the refrigerator? It is OK to store wine in the refrigerator for up to a few months when unopened. It isn’t the ideal temperature for keeping wine long-term.
Your household fridge is typically kept at a colder temperature than the best range for wine. A consistent temperature of about 55° F is an ideal storage temperature, but anywhere between 45° F and 65° F is usually fine for short-term storage.
We’re not saying you’re out of luck if you don’t own a wine fridge. A closet or basement space can work fine. Just make sure your wine isn’t exposed to sudden or frequent temperature fluctuations while it’s in storage. That means that nook next to your dryer is out.
Too many temperature swings can cause changes in the cork and allow air to seep into the wine. This can cause oxidation, or a chemical reaction that turns your wine stale. Oxidized wine isn’t unsafe to drink, but it may not be pleasant.
Keep wine out of direct sunlight to preserve its color, taste, and aroma. It’s best to store wine in a cool dark place. Sunlight and fluorescent light can both affect the integrity of your wine.
Household bulbs are probably fine unless you’re worried about faded labels. It’s best practice to try not to check in on your wine too often with the lights on, though. You could be affecting the temperature in your storage area on top of the light exposure.
Humidity levels aren’t as important as light and temperature when it comes to your wine collection. The ideal humidity level is between 50-80 percent, which isn’t too hard to achieve unless you’re living in very dry or damp conditions.
A dehumidifier is an easy fix if you’re worried about excess humidity and want to keep moisture out of the air.
Is it better to store wine on its side or upright? It’s better to store wine on its side if you’re saving a fine wine for aging, but storing wine upright is fine for most wines kept short-term.
Storing wine on its side keeps the cork from drying out, since it’s in constant contact with the wine in the bottle. If you purchased a special occasion bottle suitable for aging, keep it horizontal.
If you’re only storing wine short-term and fell in love with a wine rack that stores bottles sideways, that’s great. It’s just not necessary if you’re going to drink your wine within a year of purchase.
Storing wine upside down isn’t ideal unless you’re drinking it within a few days. You’re tempting gravity that way and putting pressure on the cork. Seepage is rare but possible, and it’s more likely you’ll have sediment at the top of your bottle instead of the bottom where it belongs.
Don’t Shake It!
You really shouldn’t shake a bottle of wine — unless you want to add a dramatic flare to popping a bottle of champagne. Shaking can affect the integrity of your wine and bring any sediment to the top of the bottle.
Note: Sediment isn’t a bad thing Decanting takes care of sediment if you find the wine’s gone a little too gritty. Typically, you don’t see much obvious sediment until you’ve aged a wine for about 10 years.
More subtle vibrations in your storage space are usually fine unless you want to age wine in long-term storage. If you’re one of those wine lovers who love a fine, aged wine, keep it as still as possible as it ages.
You don’t need to rotate your bottles, either, even if you’re storing them sideways. It’s best to just leave them alone.
Storing Open Bottles
If you find yourself with leftover wine after opening a bottle, there are a few ways to make sure your wine stays drinkable for at least a few more days.
What type of containers are best for storing wine? The type of containers that are best for storing wine are the wine’s original glass bottles.
Some wine experts say a smaller container is better for open bottles to limit oxidation. If you only have a limited amount of time to store the wine after it’s been opened, you don’t need to buy any fancy storage bottles. You don’t need a vacuum pump, either.
Re-corking the wine is just fine. Here are a few more tips for storing open bottles:
- Don’t toss that cork. Re-cork your wine right after you pour a glass and put it back in the fridge. Yes, this includes red wine. Take your reds out of the fridge about an hour before you’re ready to sip them again to return your wine to the ideal serving temperature.
- A screw cap is fine, too. Your opened wine will last just as long as a corked varietal if you’re working with a screw cap. You’re simply trying to prevent oxidation, so it’s important that you put the cap back on immediately after you pour.
- Plastic wrap and a rubber band will do in a pinch. Original tops are best, followed by the wine stopper you got as a bridal shower favor. If you accidentally tossed a cork or cap and don’t have extras, just try to get as tight a seal as possible around the top of the bottle.
Wine does go bad, by the way. You can usually tell by the smell or at worst, the taste. A wine that’s gone bad will have an obvious funk to it like strong vinegar. That doesn’t mean you should drink too much and finish off the bottle in one sitting. You have some time.
How long is wine good for after opening? Most wine is good for about 3-5 days after opening, but some varietals last longer than others.
Rosé and light-bodied white wines fall within that average, but sparkling wine goes flat within a day or 2. Some bold red wines like a cabernet sauvignon can last up to 6 days, but that’s pushing it. Fortified wines can retain their taste for up to a few weeks.
If you’re a fan of natural wine or functional wines that lack the preservatives of most commercial wines, that open bottle of wine may only last another day.
Champagne and Other Bubbles
Storing champagne and other sparkling wines is similar to conventional wine storage. Keep your bottles out of direct sunlight and at a consistent, cool temperature.
It isn’t as important to store even vintage champagnes on their sides because the bubbles are already keeping the cork moist. Once opened, sparkling wines taste best that same day. Champagne stoppers will only add another day or so before your wine goes flat.
Non-alcoholic wines follow similar wine storage rules because they start out just like real wine. These aren’t grape juice varieties. Treat them like you would any bottle of wine and you’ll be able to enjoy them for up to a year or 2 after purchase.
Start with our non-alcoholic sparkling brut if you like bubbles. Our non-alcoholic pinot noir is great for red wine fans. If you’re not sure where to start, take our wine quiz. We’ll match you with the perfect wine for your palate.