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How to Store Wine

Proper Wine Storage for the Long Term and Short Term

By Ted Fuehne, CWE

There is something to be said for enjoying a bottle of wine that has been properly aged. This does not come about without careful thought and consideration. Storing a wine properly will make a difference in the flavor, color and character of the wine for both the novice and the experienced wine drinker. One of the most important things to know is what happens to both red and white wine as it ages. This will determine how long the wine can be stored. Wine is made from grapes and therefore it is perishable. While vodka and bourbon will not go bad due to their high alcohol content, wine does not have a high alcohol content to keep it from going bad. Wines that are stored for a few weeks or even months can be impacted negatively or positively by method of storage. 

The difference between red and white wines will be the first basic determining factor of how long a wine can be stored. Because white wines are not fermented on the skins, and do not have the tannins of the red wines, they cannot be stored for very long. There are two things that will help age white wines. One is if the wine is fortified and the alcohol content is increased and the other is if it is late harvest, where the sugar level is higher than normal. 

These two things enable white wines to age longer than normal. Red wines have the ability to age longer primarily because the wine is aged on the skins of the grapes. This step gives the red wines tannins and gives them the ability to age. Tannins come from the skins and stems and also from the barrel ageing. They give the red wine body and the ability to be laid down for a time. Another aspect of aging wine is that white wines get darker with age.  Red wines, because the tannins in the wine break down over time, get lighter. The sediment that you may see in some red wines is an example of tannins breaking down and causing the wine to lighten. 

 Storage requirements will depend on the type of wine and the intended use of the wine. A majority of wines that are made today are made ready to drink, especially the less expensive wines. These wines will not improve with any storage and they should be consumed within 6 months to 12 months of bottling. Red wines and white wines – and I add white wines because some big oaky chardonnays and French Burgundies are meant to age – will only do so with the proper storage. Here are some basic storage suggestions to help you get the most from your favorite wines. enjoyed decreases the chance that you will have a bad wine experience. This is a bit conservative, but experimentation can be expensive and disappointing.


This is the single most important factor that influences the aging of the wines. For the most optimum aging and storage, wine should be stored in an area where the temperature stays at a constant temperature in the 55-60°F range, with a variation of no more than one degree a week. It is ideal if the  wines can be stored at the lower limit of this range. The higher the temperature the wine is stored above 55-60 degrees, the faster the wine will age. There is no way of knowing how much faster the wine will age, but at 70 degrees the wine will age twice as fast as at the lower temperature. If you have one, the best place to store your wines is in the basement of your house. I store all my wines in our basement since the temperature stays fairly constant at around 60 degrees. If you do not have a basement, find a closet that is cool, or invest in a wine cooler if you want to store your wines properly.  

Here are some other suggestions concerning the serving temperature of wine. If a red wine is too warm, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. For white wines that are in the refrigerator, pull them out about 15 minutes before you plan to serve the wines. Never drink a white wine too cold since the fruit of the wine is lost and never drink a red wine too warm because the alcohol will become predominant.   

I think that temperature is the most important aspect in storing and enjoying wine....

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