February 16, 2012
How long and where should I store my wine at home?
If you have collected several different bottles of wine over time and are wondering “how long should I hold on to this wine?”, “where should I store my wine?, etc… I would like to offer my advice through my own personal trials and tribulations with this subject.
I have an extremely embarrassing fact about myself to admit. Several years ago, and I’m talking back in 1996, when I first really started getting into wine and collecting higher end bottles, I used to store my wine on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen!!!!! I know it sounds ridiculous but sadly, it’s true. The only consolation was the lesson I learned very quickly- heat rises from the top of a refrigerator and “cooks” (premature aging that brings out vinegar or alcohol flavors) your wine! I also learned back then to never ever leave a bottle of Champagne in the trunk of your car if the temperature outside is less than 20- 30 degrees- unless you like the smell and stickiness of exploded Champagne all over the inside of your trunk! The trunk is also a really bad idea on a hot summer day (70 degrees or higher) when your trunk acts like a pressure cooker and it will do just that- it “cooks” the wine! The ideal place to store all your bottles of wine is in a cool, dark and slightly damp space (45 to 60 degrees- if possible). Wine is preserved more effectively if there is a little humidity in the air which helps to prevent the corks from drying out. Therefore, a wine cellar or a basement is highly recommended for storing your precious bottles. Another tip is to store your wine on its side (horizontally) so that the wine keeps the corks moist. If you don’t have a basement or a wine cellar then a dark cool closet will do the trick.
As far as holding on to bottles of wine for a long period of time, here are some general rules to follow:
Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigios (drink now or within a year or 2)- these wines are crisp and refreshing and are usually not built for aging.
Chardonnays (drink within 2 to 4 years)- the creamy, richer textures and barrel fermentation allows for aging more gracefully.
Pinot Noirs (drink within 3 to 6 years)- the acidity and the typically lower amounts of tannin will not allow for aging too many years.
Zinfandels (drink within 3 to 6 years)- even though these wines have a good amount of tannin, they consequently also have higher amounts of alcohol which when held onto for several years, the alcohol will eventually overtake the fruit in the wine.
Shiraz & Merlots (drink within 4 to 8 years)- these wines usually have fair amounts of tannin and structure that would benefit from some aging before serving.
Cabernets and red blends (drink within 5 to 10 years)- these wines are built for aging and need some time to soften and develop before opening and enjoying to their full potential.
The myth breakers to these guidelines would be if the wine (red or white) is inexpensive ($5 to $10 a bottle)- you should drink these wines now or at least within 1 to 3 years (they are designed to drink young)! Also, if the wine comes from France, even white wine, you can hold on to these wines a little longer than California wines because they are barrel aged and bottled with the intent to hold on to them in your cellar for future enjoyment. If the tannin level in red wine is higher than usual (Pinot Noir is a good example) then you can hold on to the wine for a few more years. Wines with higher amounts of tannin (only red wine has tannins) benefit from aging for several years.
With all of this said, I stand by the age old saying that “life is too short”! So, my best advice is to open, decant and drink your wine sooner than later! Cheers to you, Brad Wermager