Okay, so god knows what “fall” is going to bring. Snow? Heat wave? Ice fog (if that’s a thing)? More likely trees become sentient, turn into Ents, and just retake the world from us with a gnarly tree branch-smack to our collective, carbon-emission loving faces. Either way, there’s still a slight chance this idea of “fall” is going to happen, meaning maybe some crispy leaves, definitely a glut of pre-Halloween Christmas decorations, and yes, that long-awaited transition from warm to cool—the ideal time to store wine outside.
Why outside? Because—if late season heat waves and the abominable polar vortex comply—early fall should provide some decent temps for wine storage. We’re not talking about cellaring wine, which is a whole different story. If your wine needs serious aging—if it has the tannins, strong fruits, and structural solidity that benefits from a few years (or decades) of carefully controlled melding—don’t chuck it out onto the fire escape for a few weeks. The idea here is using the available, appropriate temperatures in your region to store easy drinking whites, roses, and reds (assuming you have some outdoor space; windowsills, fire escapes, and carefully rigged clotheslines not recommended).
It’s no surprise seasonal temps and wine storage options sync up (at least at first): we tend to crave whites, roses, and light reds around this time of year, letting go of crisp summer whites and bidding adieu to roses as temperatures dip and tipsy al fresco drinking brunches become a thing of the past. But for at least a few weeks, all of our late seasonal favorites kind of overlap in beverage relevance. And outside temperatures, in theory, comply for storage.
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Given the likely brevity of the summer/fall temperature sweet spot, it’s important to know in advance—when do fall temps sync up with wine storage temps? It varies, but a good rule of thumb is don’t dip below 45 F with any white unless you want frigidity choking your wine’s aromatics the way a tight holiday sweater will inevitably squeeze your body like a sausage casing. And don’t go above 70 F with any red, since those temps are going to do some unfriendly things to your wine, basically flat-ironing any 3-D complexities into 2-D alcohol-dominant inanities. The best range is anywhere from the 50s to mid 60s, leaning colder for whites and a bit warmer for reds, which actually works inversely—since we tend to crave reds as it gets colder—which is why this brief period is kind of ideal for outside storage. (Another good rule of thumb, especially in our wonky weather era, avoid temperature fluctuation.)
If you want to know your fall weather prospects, which may or may not include milky rain or a tsunami fog bank, check the Farmer’s Almanac (or your local weather channel). Generally, though, direct sunlight should be avoided, but if you’re cooling a wine for a few days, and they’re not blaringly hot and sunny, you should be fine. (If they are hot and sunny, just chuck the wine in a moderately cool fridge and warm up before serving.) And if you’ve already opened a bottle of wine, feel free to put the decanter outside to chill—just cover it up, since bugs aren’t quite done ruining our lives yet, and they tend to Kamikaze their way into wine glasses. Not a bad way to say goodbye to summer.