aWondering how to store wine? You have come to the right place!
While we encourage drinking responsibly, we also appreciate that wine is one of life’s true pleasures. It is always nice to have a bottle or two stored at home for special occasions or when unexpected guests drop by, however you don’t want to be serving them a glass of vinegar with their cheese and biscuits!
Perhaps one of the reasons the world is so fascinated with wine is that it must be handled and stored with care to be enjoyed in its optimum condition.
To find out more about this delightful drop and to learn how to store wine, read on…
The origin of wine
The human race’s love of fermented grape juice goes way back. According to Scientific American, evidence of wine has been found in 5,000 year old Egyptian tombs, and “the oldest fermented beverage known is a 9,000-year-old rice and honey wine identified on pottery shards from the village of Jiahu in central China.”
The oldest-known winery was discovered in a cave in Armenia and dates back to around 4100 BC. However, experts believe wine consumption had its origins prior to any archaeological records.
Wine has its place in mythology, with Greek mythology crediting Dionysus with the discovery of winemaking (viticulture). After teaching the practice to others, he was granted the extreme promotion of God-status.
In Persian legend, King Jamshid banished a lady from his harem, causing her to become depressed. Going to the king’s warehouse, the woman sought out a jar marked “poison”, containing the remnants of grapes that had spoiled. After drinking the fermented wine, she found her spirits lifted.
She took her discovery to the king, who became so enamoured of his new drink that he not only accepted the woman back but also decreed that all grapes grown in Persepolis would be devoted to winemaking.
From Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire to Medieval Europe and beyond, wine has permeated cultures around the world.
Australia is now one of the planet’s top ten wine producing countries, creating over 1.18 million tonnes of the beverage each year. As a nation, we consume around 5.8 million hectolitres per annum.
If you have invested in a few quality bottles and want to keep them aside but don’t have the luxury of your own personal wine cellar (who does?), it is still critical that you store your wine carefully.
This bottled goodness is sensitive to temperature, humidity and light. Both red and white wine need to be kept somewhere cool, still, dry and away from direct light to keep from spoiling.
What makes wine go off?
If you have ever opened a bottle of wine to be greeted by an unpleasant odour, it has gone off in the bottle. This could be for a couple of different reasons.
Firstly, wine can ‘oxidise’, or be ruined after being exposed to too much air, which causes the chemistry of the substance to change. If your wine has been affected by this, it will begin to taste too strongly like vinegar. When stored in a sealed bottle, wine shouldn’t be affected by oxidation. However, if the cork or cap is not on correctly it can still happen.
In some cases, wine can be affected by a lack of oxygen during the production process. This will result in a ‘cabbagey’ smell.
Wine will also go ‘off’ if it is exposed to too much heat. This can alter the flavour, resulting in a taste that just isn’t quite right. Wine connoisseurs will know quickly if a wine has been ‘cooked’. This disaster can happen on the way home from the liquor store on a hot day if you’re not careful.
While this style of wine seal has become few and far between, if a wine is ‘corked’, a contaminated cork can result in the presence of TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole) which causes an unpleasant ‘mildew’ smell and taste.
How to store wine to prevent it from spoiling
Experts share several tips to prevent wine from going bad.
Firstly, sunlight is a no-no as it can lead to premature ageing. As an initial precaution, many wines come in tinted bottles to prevent their contents from being damaged by the sun, but you should always keep your wine away from direct sunlight so it does not get too warm.
As well as keeping it somewhere dark(ish), the recommendation is to store your wine below 21 degrees celsius, ideally between 7.2 degrees and 18 degrees. Keep the temperature where your wine is stored as stable as possible, although a couple of degrees of variation shouldn’t matter too much.
Humidity also needs to be well balanced when you store your wine. Too low and the cork will dry out, too high and it may get mouldy. Experts recommend a humidity level of 50 – 80 percent and suggest placing a bowl of water under or near your wine if you are worried the place it is stored in is too dry. Dehumidifiers may also come in handy if you are serious about storing wine the right way.
Did you ever wonder why wines are stored lying down? This evolved as a way to keep the cork moist and prevent it from drying out. With the modern screw-top bottles, it isn’t really necessary but somehow standing them up just doesn’t feel right!
If you’re going to store bottles for a long time, after a while they might start to accumulate sediment, a harmless byproduct of ageing. Many people believe wine that is stored for long periods must be ‘turned’ regularly. This involves rotating the bottle by 90 degrees to ensure the sediment doesn’t settle in one place. However, according to Wine Spectator, the best thing for wine is to keep it stored on one side until you’re ready to serve it. Prior to serving an aged wine, stand the bottle up for a couple of days to allow any sediment to fall to the bottom.
In case you’re wondering, it is fine to store champagne the same way you would other wines — away from light, heat and extreme humidity or dry conditions.
The ideal place to store wine, in the absence of a full-sized wine cellar or purpose-built wine fridge, is a cool, dry, dark place somewhere inside your home. Kitchens are not recommended due to fluctuating temperatures (especially near the stove or fridge, which can both get quite hot), and the same goes for laundries. A garage may be a suitable place but only if the conditions are consistent. Avoid garden sheds unless they stay shaded year-round or are somehow insulated against fluctuating temperatures.
There are many inexpensive wine racks which can be placed in the most ideal spot in your home and will make your wine bottles less likely to be knocked around.
Your friend in the fridge…
If you bring home a bottle of white wine with the plan to drink it within a day or two, the fridge can be a good place to keep it. However, this is not a long term solution for a few reasons.
Firstly, the slight vibration of a standard fridge can affect the chemical balance of the wine. Also, a fridge does not have the right humidity levels for long term wine storage. You may end up with a dry cork and the dreaded oxidisation.
…but not in the freezer
In the event of an emergency, some of us plonk a bottle of plonk in the freezer to get it to the desired temperature.
This is a suitable tactic — if you remember to take your wine out again! The freezing process makes the liquid expand, resulting in a shattered bottle and a freezer full of glass. Generally speaking, half an hour in the freezer should be enough to produce a well-chilled drop so set a timer!
How to store wine: red vs white
The qualities of red and white wine are different but the only recommendations when it comes to storing them is to store white for a shorter period due to its diminished resilience to the ageing process.
In terms of serving, after it has been stored for a while, grab your white and pop it in the fridge in preparation for serving. Give red some time to reach a slightly warmer room temperature than it has been stored at (decant it if possible). This will help you enjoy both the way they were designed to be consumed.
Which wines improve with age?
Contrary to popular belief, not all wines are designed to be kept for decades and most do not taste better if you do so. Generally, experts recommend wines which cost less than $30 are to be kept for no longer than five years (or perhaps three years for white wines). After those five years are up, the wine can start to lose many of the qualities that made it so enjoyable in the first place.
The reason some wines are recommended to be kept for a long time before drinking (aged) is because it is believed the time gives the flavours an opportunity to develop and improve.
Red wines that age well generally have higher tannins, which act as antioxidants and help preserve freshness in red wines. Two classic examples of red wines that have high tannin on release would be Barolo and Bordeaux. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are also known for ageing well.
If you are looking to age a white wine, Riesling and Chardonnay, Chablis, White Bordeaux, Muscat, ice wines and some Semillons are generally recommended as the best for long term storage.
The suitability of wine for ageing depends on a number of factors beyond the variety. To choose a specific bottle, have a look at an online chart of wines which age well, or chat to a sales representative to see what is currently recommended and get some tips on how to store wine.
While the world’s oldest bottle of wine is over 1,600 years old, experts state that it is unlikely to have continued to improve over its many years. The ‘Speyer’ bottle is believed to contain wine made from grapes which were planted during the times of the Roman Empire. Nobody is game to open it and if they did, they would probably be better off using it as a salad dressing than a beverage!
How to tell if wine is off
It is generally easy to tell if wine has gone bad during the production or storage process. Firstly, you may notice the bottle is leaking. This will be due to the contents of the bottle expanding because of too-warm conditions.
As you open a bottle, a crumbling cork is a giveaway that your bottle of wine is ‘past it’.
When you pour, cloudy or particle filled wine will indicate a problem, as will a presence of fizz or bubbles. A smell of wet dog, rotten egg, vinegar or other chemicals is also an indicator of something going wrong with your vino.
And finally— the taste test! Wine is made to be delicious and while we all prefer some varietals to others, a no-good wine will likely be instantly recognised by even an inexperienced palate.
Sadly, bad wine can happen without warning, which is why many establishments offer the first sip as a taste. Don’t be afraid to do this and to send a bottle back if it is not up to scratch.
Generally speaking, most wines are created to be enjoyed straight away or within a three to five year period. However, it is always a pleasure to have a couple of special bottles stored away for the long term, with a birthday or celebratory date in mind for opening them. Make sure you take care of these bottles and learn how to store wine so they are worth the wait.
If your wine has not been stored correctly and has lost its drinkability, or you’ve run out of bottles at home, visit MaZi at Lantern Club. We have an extensive list of quality wines from Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Italy and France to be enjoyed during your next night out, by the bottle or glass.
Members can also purchase wine online direct from Lantern Club, paying with cash or Membership Reward Points.