If you are planning on keeping a bottle of wine for some time, then it is worth giving some thought to creating the best storage environment. Typically, if you are holding a bottle beyond a couple of months then you will want to take steps to keep it stored correctly so that it remains in good condition.
Great storage is about minimising degradation from oxygen, light, and temperature, while allowing the wine to mature. Many bottles will improve with bottle ageing but only if kept under the correct conditions.
Find the right position
Keeping the closure intact is vital to prevent oxidation which will readily ruin even the best of bottles. This applies only to bottles with cork closures which can easily dry out, causing the cork to shrink and no longer provide a strong seal.
The solution to this is simple, keep bottles on their side. This ensures that the wine remains in contact with the cork, keeping it moist and preventing it from shrinking.
Block strong lighting
Strong lighting, particularly sunlight, can have also devastating consequences on the wine in a bottle. While producers often use coloured bottles in an attempt to mitigate the impact of lighting, the glass can only do so much. Wine bottles should be stored in a dark area, that remains out of sunlight.
Set a cool temperature
Temperature is arguably the most important aspect of storing wine correctly. There are varying trains of thought with regards to the perfect storage temperature but in most cases a temperature between 10°C and 16°C (50°F - 61°F) will work. Temperature extremes should be avoided, in most cases this means between 0°C and 25°C (32°F - 77°F).
Alongside temperature, humidity plays an important role in continuing the work preventing the cork from drying (although this would take many years to become an issue in a standard household environment).
It is likely that higher quality wines stored for longer periods will benefit from more delicate storage in conditions suited to the particular bottle. The bottle retailer or producer can help give additional information on how to best store a bottle if you have a particular plan in mind.
The perfect position, lighting, and temperature alone are not quite enough to create the ideal storage environment. It is key that bottles are stored in a stable environment free from interruptions and variation. Inconsistencies are much more likely to spoil a bottle than the conditions being slightly off.
Fluctuating temperatures in particular, are perhaps the easiest way to ruin a bottle. It is vital that wine is stored away from heat and cold sources and the range of temperature change should be kept as small as is possible.
Consideration should also be given to avoiding disturbing bottles while in storage. Movement and vibration can upset sediment which can impact how the wine ages.
Finally strong odours can impart on wine during storage and so areas with exposure to particularly strong smells, such as kitchens and garages, are best avoided.
Selecting a storage location
At SommCellar, we like to think of storing wine as helping it sleep. A dark and cool environment with few interruptions, for it to rest.
With this in mind, look for a location that sees little use where the wine can be left for extended periods without being disturbed. A cellar or basement is ideal followed closely by an outhouse (with insulation for cold weather).
For most, choosing the right storage location is likely to be driven predominantly by practical considerations. There is nothing wrong with a cupboard under the stairs, a loft space, or spare cupboard in a sideboard. Just steer clear of locations near radiators, fireplaces, and windows.
If the environment you are using for storage is not quite ideal then consider storing bottles for a shorter period to try and avoid longer-term degradation.
Finally, if you have no option to store wine at home then many retailers offer wine storage options and there are now many wine storage businesses available to keep your wine stored on your behalf.
Wine storage can appear complex but with a few simple steps it can be possible to create a storage environment that keeps bottles in great condition to enjoy in years to come.