Wine 101: Mythbusters: Storing Wine

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On this episode of “Wine 101,” join host Keith Beavers to discuss wine storage. Whether you are storing a massive collection or a few bottles, there are some things to consider. Tune in for more.

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Keith Beavers: My name is Keith Beavers and owning a home is crazy sometimes. Like when you want something stupid like an umbrella stand and you go online to buy one and five hours later you’re still learning about umbrella stands and you’re realizing there’s a whole world out there of umbrella stands and it’s an industry and they’re kind of expensive and bespoke and all this. And you finally figure it out and then you’re like, “Oh my God. Now I have to buy a toilet paper dispenser.”

What’s going on, wine lovers? From the VinePair Podcasting Network, this is “Wine 101.” My name is Keith Beavers. I am the tastings director of VinePair and I hope you’re doing well. Today we’re going to have a little bit of fun. We’re going to talk about how to store wine.

What does it mean to store wine for a couple weeks, for years, for days? What are we doing over here? Just talking about storing wine. It’ll be a fun little discussion.

So storing wine, how does that make you feel? Often it gives people a little bit of agita, a little anxiety. It’s like, “Oh my God, I have a bottle of wine. It’s in my closet. I hope it’s dark enough. I hope it’s cool enough. It’s a bottle of wine I want to have for some time. I don’t want to hold on to it for years. Maybe a couple months, maybe a couple weeks, but I hope it’s okay.” I’ve asked a lot of people; they give me all these different answers. I don’t know what to talk about. “Oh my God, is this bottle of wine going to be ruined? Is it going to be ruined?” It’s a question that comes up a lot at VinePair. And it’s a very interesting subject these days because we’re seeing less people actually collect wine and more people buy wine that is consumed sooner than later.

And that’s great. I mean, it means a lot of people are exploring wine, just exploring all different kinds of stuff and going out there and drinking wine and getting into it. But the thing is, we are still collecting wine. And if we’re buying more to consume sooner than later, the wines we buy to actually age if we do, are kind of special.

And whether you’re in the “I collect as a hobby and I have thousands of wines” category or if you’re in the “I’m a wine consumer and ball out every once in a while, throw that wine somewhere hoping it’s okay for a while until I get back to it in a couple weeks, in a couple months, maybe a year, maybe two.” Maybe you even splurged on a case and you want to taste this case of one wine over a few years and do the experiment of watching a wine age.

What do you do with it? Well, let’s get the big money thing out of the way. Because if you are collecting wine for a hobby and you have a few hundred and you’re starting to collect more and more, you, if you have a space to collect, you’ve actually consulted with somebody, an architect of some sort and they’ve built out a cellar for you or you’ve done the work to get the temperature controls and all the things you need.

If you don’t have that luxury and you do have a collection of wine, you need it to be stored properly. There are professional services out there that will store your wine in the correct capacity with the right humidity and the right consistent temperature so that the wines that you’re aging can age properly. And we’ll get into that in a second.

And there are a lot of — not a lot, but there is a significant amount. There are companies out there that will do this. They have facilities and they will offer you a program for storing your wine. And it’s really kind of crazy because you’re letting somebody else take an inventory of something you’ve collected and love and putting it into their hands.

So if you’re going to do that, be sure to vet the company thoroughly, ask people about the company, see how the company’s doing. Because if you are putting a bunch of bottles that you spent a bunch of money on into a third-party storage system and that company goes under, it gets a little ugly. So that’s just kind of the downside of that.

Also, just make sure they’re doing all the things correctly with temperature control and humidity, which we’ll get into. If that sounds really stressful — and it does to me — but it’s there, it’s possible. And there are great companies out there. I’m not saying they’re all bad. I’m just saying just be careful, you never know. Brick-and-mortar companies come and go.

One thing you can also do is a temperature-controlled storage unit. You can just go to any storage unit that has temperature control, it’s at whatever degree, and you can store your wine in there. You can even put an air conditioner in there if you want to. I’ve known people to do this. Living in New York, nobody has any room, storage units are just part of our lives. And I’ve seen people have entire wine collections in these storage units in Brooklyn. It’s pretty amazing.

Okay. So maybe one day you’ll get there or maybe you’re somebody who doesn’t want to get there. Maybe you’re like, “Look, Keith, I buy wine, I drink wine, I have a few bottles I like to hold onto for a little bit. Where do I put these bottles so that something doesn’t go wrong?” Okay, so let me generalize a little bit here, but I don’t want anyone to get scared.

Storing wine is for… If we’re only storing wine for a couple weeks or a month or two, we’re going to try our best. Right? So I’m going to just tell you about the two things that affect wine when you’re storing it. And we’ll go into some details about that, but then on the other side of it, we’re going to kind of level it out and plateau a little bit.

So the enemies or the thing, not the enemies, the things, the factors you have to consider when storing wine are temperature and humidity. The temperature part is important. The extremes of temperature will be a problem. And if you have no way of storing your wine outside of extreme temperatures, then I don’t know, it’s going to be a little bit tough.

But if a wine gets too hot, too warm, it starts to mature fast and that fast rapid maturation creates jammy, fruit-forward characteristics that will cover up the subtle complexities of the wine you’re trying to enjoy once you open it. If a wine is stored in extreme cold, it will actually separate, compounds will separate out of the liquid, freeze, and push up out of the bottle trying to push the cork out.

If you’ve listened to any of the episodes we talked about with Chardonnay and other white wines, that cold soak where they cold soak wine to extract tartrate so that the harsh compounds of wine are not in the wine, well, doing that, if you’re storing wine, that’s going to happen as well. Even more compounds are going to come out. Okay.

Those are extreme and I would imagine that you guys, wherever you are, whoever, wherever you’re listening from, you don’t have that, those extreme temperatures. But just to say there’s a heat wave or a cold spike or a polar vortex and you’re storing wine outside in a shed or something like that, these are some things to take into consideration.

If you have a wine refrigerator, you’re good because you can just dial it in. And usually, between 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for wine to continue to mature at a steady pace. So that’s nice. You have a wine refrigerator, cool. You have a dual-temperature wine refrigerator, those get a little bit weird.

I would just dial it all in between 50 and 59. Just let it all happen. And of course, at that temperature control in that small atmosphere, the humidity will be controlled as well. But not all of us have that stuff. So this is the thing — when you’re storing wine for a couple weeks, then there’s a very wide range of temperatures, that wine is going to be just fine.

So all the stuff I told you, it is ideal, but there is no actual hard scientific research for this. This is just people’s experience. So as far as humidity is concerned, it said, the “Oxford Wine Companion” does state that 75 percent humidity is often cited as ideal, but not everybody has that.

The humidity side of storing wine is just so the cork does not dry out. And if you’re only storing for a couple weeks, you really shouldn’t have a problem. Also, wines are often stored horizontally so as to keep the cork somewhat moist. Some people do it just straight horizontal.

Some people actually tip it towards the cork a little bit so that the air pocket is actually on the side of the bottle and not actually near the cork. This is all a result of a study in the 1990s to try to find the best position for a wine to age. Another thing humidity can do to a bottle of wine is compromise the adhesive used to put the label on the glass.

This is again, mostly for longer-term storage. But over time, if the humidity isn’t right, then these labels will come off and you’re going to have to deal with that. But in the more domestic, like we’re at home and we’re just putting a couple bottles somewhere, that’s really not the biggest deal. Just make sure the humidity is not crazy.

So if you’re just chilling at home with a bottle of wine, and you want to know where to put it, my suggestion would be not the kitchen because of the work that’s done in the kitchen. Even though it might be cool, most of the time when you cook, the kitchen heats up and even the rooms near the kitchen may be affected by that. It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but that might over time affect a bottle of wine.

The thing about wine is as long as you’re storing a bottle of wine, that is, if it’s below 77 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re pretty much in a good spot. Having it below 60 is ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. Wine is pretty, it can be delicate, but it’s also pretty, it can handle that.

I often tell people to store their wine if they have a basement, store it in the basement because that’s just the best ever. Even if the basement gets a little bit warm, it’s always going to have some coolness to it. Or on the first floor. If you have radiator heating in the house or wherever you’re living, it heats up like the top of the house or the top of your domicile heats up first, try to keep wine on the first floor.

You’re just trying to keep wine away from heat. And ideally, just keep it in a closet. Closets are great. They’re cool, they’re dry, and they are away from a lot of light exposure. Because there’s temperature and humidity, but there’s all the, which can damage wine, but there’s also this thing called light strike.

It’s not as frequent, it doesn’t happen often and it’s not going to be crazy, but there is a thing where too much light exposure to a bottle of wine provokes a chemical reaction with two things: riboflavin and amino acids. And it affects the wine in the ultraviolet or blue end of the spectrum of light.

And what it does is the amino acids and the riboflavin reactions create what are called mercaptans, which I’ve talked about before. Mercaptans are aromas that are gross, that take away from the wine. There are mercaptans that are used, that can actually add complexity to the wine, but those are very few and far between and in very small amounts.

But if you have light strike where a wine has been sitting in the sun, a window with sun on it for a long time, this could happen to a wine and your wine could smell like cooked cabbage, just the nastiest stuff. And you could also smell sulfur.

So for example, if you’re walking by a wine shop and they have wine in their window and the wines are full and light is just blazing on those wine bottles, they’re not very concerned about light strike. I don’t know if those wines are for sale, but that’s not good for the wine.

But that’s really it. If you just have some bottles you want to put into the closet because you’re going to pop them at some point and share them with friends, that’s totally fine.

You can have a wine in there for months in a closet because it has no… because of the dry and the no light and all that. But there’s really no, like I said, there’s no scientific, real, hardcore research about this. There are just different ways to be careful. Just avoid the extremes, humidity, and temperature, and try to keep a wine out of too much light exposure.

The lights in your house are just fine. I mean, if you have fluorescent lighting, that can be a little bit weird for bottles, but just regular light bulbs will be just fine. Okay. So that’s my little discussion on storing wine. One thing you can take away from this is don’t stress about it, man. Don’t stress too much.

I mean, if you’re getting big and going crazy, there’s some stuff to take into consideration, but extremes, stay away from them. Keep it in the dark, if you can. Enjoy yourselves. I’ll see you next week.

@VinePairKeith is my Insta. Rate and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts from. It really helps get the word out there.

And now, for some totally awesome credits. “Wine 101” was produced, recorded, and edited by yours truly, Keith Beavers, at the VinePair headquarters in New York City. I want to give a big ol’ shout-out to co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for creating VinePair. Big shout-out to Danielle Grinberg, the art director of VinePair, for creating the most awesome logo for this podcast. Also, Darbi Cicci for the theme song. Listen to this. And I want to thank the entire VinePair staff for helping me learn something new every day. See you next week.

E. & J. Gallo Winery is excited to sponsor this episode of VinePair’s “Wine 101.” Gallo always welcomes new friends to wine with an amazing wide range of favorites, ranging from everyday to luxury and sparkling wines. I mean, Gallo also makes award-winning spirits, but this is a wine podcast. So whether you’re new to wine or an aficionado, Gallo welcomes you to wine. We look forward to serving you enjoyment in moments that matter. Cheers. Visit today to find your next favorite, where shipping is available.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.