Tag Archives: wine storage

Questions from Readers

21 Oct

Today’s blog post is to answer an email from a subscriber!

J.S. writes: I have a little collection going (like under 10), mix of reds and whites. Just some of my favorites and the odd gift or two. I have a wine rack, and its stored in my room (so cool and dark most of the day)…what else do I need to know about storing the wines? Do wines have expirations dates? Do I need to turn them or something?

It’s funny- I wish wines HAD an expiration date, or more specifically, a little icon that changed, broke, or turned a color when the wine spoiled and was no longer worth drinking. But that’s another story…

Physical storage: for wine storage, a dark location (no sunlight!) that is a constant 50-55˚ Farenheit with 60-70% relative humidity is ideal. Unless the wine has a screw cap or non-traditional closure, the wine should be on its side if you intend to store longer than a year. Honestly, wines that I intend to drink within three months are usually vertical on or near my dining room buffet, arranged much like in a shop- bottles are sitting in a queue, waiting to be opened and enjoyed. For bottles you’d like to store longer, make sure the bottle is either on an angle or on its side, keeping the cork wet. Once a bottle is in long-term storage, the idea is NOT to move them. This is where those little bottle neck tags come into play- you put a label on the neck so you don’t have to move the bottle, and the wine rests happily ever after… at least in theory.

In general, wines that are in the $20 and under range are intended to be drunk in the first five years after their release.  If you have wines that are older than five years (pre-2008 at time of this writing), that are NOT a first or second growth from a famed producer, then I’d suggest you open those soon, before they become something better suited to dress a salad.

Tangent Warning for Corked Wine Stories! Believe me, I’ve had my share of experiences with wine being corked from over-aging, being cooked, and swinging temperature problems. When you buy a case of great wine and it slowly decays with age, it will teach you what NOT to do pretty quickly. My first big lesson in bad wine storage was after I’d been storing about half a remaining case in the bottom of a pantry (nice, dark, usually cool) but I totally forgot about it when we departed for a summer vacation and I shut of the air conditioning. I had lots of salad dressing, let me tell you, when I could have simply put those bottles in the (gasp) refrigerator instead during that month. While it would have been a different kind of damage to the wine,  it would have been the lesser of two evils and I probably could have enjoyed them come Thanksgiving.  And at least,  I could have enjoyed them at all!  Don’t fret, as  I’ve purchased vintage wines that were corked as well… let’s just say, it’s always a risk, and a concern that is worth your consideration.

Home of one of the world’s greatest wine lists, Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida has a wine storage facility for over a million bottles of wine. In speaking with their sommeliers,  I learned that they tend to keep the bottles on the colder side and it aids in long term storage of wines, slowing the aging process.

The wine industry (Actually, Southeby’s Wine Encyclopedia and its editor Tom Stevenson) says that most wine of purchased these days is bought with the intent of being consumed within 24 hours. Yet plenty of wine lovers have told me to buy wine from classic chateaux, lay then down for seven to ten years, then CONSIDER opening one bottle to see how its aging. This assumes you have good taste, great storage location, and disposable wealth- but I love the concept.

Here’s an interesting resource, an Aging Potential Chart  from www.thewinecurators.com:

What wines will age well?  If you have champagne, pino grigio, or sauvignon blanc in your rack, plan to drink it within a couple of years, as it won’t age well. Only vintage champagnes (ie, dated bottles, quite expensive, such as the famed ’71 or ’82  Dom or Tattinger, thank you Mister Bond!) will improve with age.

Now, some whites (Riesling & chardonnay), and many bold red wines (aglianico, cabernet, merlot, nebbiolo, pinot noir, sangiovese, syrah, zinfandel) can really improve with age. A wine with a great structure is a start, but what to look for? The trinity of a good balance is fruit, acidity, & tannin, and this is why historic Bordeaux blends, some Burgundies, and the infamous Barolo and Brunello wines gather so much praise and accompanying expense at auction.

Have I answered your question yet, JS, or is it time to open a bottle of wine?

IN SHORT: Keep ’em cool and dark, and unless they are premium first or second growths, you should probably drink them within five years of their label age. If they are premium wines, aging 10-20 years is not uncommon, and use the aging chart. I tend to use Wine Spectator’s reviews which offer a specific range of drinkability, which I put into my cellar history to remind me which wines need to be enjoyed now, which ones are coming of age, and which ones are on the end of their lifespan. Personally, I continue to find some amazing deals of lovely aged wines to share with friends from the 1980’s and 1990’s that are delicious and worth every penny… so in spite of a few bad bottles, I continue to cellar and collect!

I do hope this helps!

If you have questions or topics you’d like to engage in, please email me at jvbuncorked@gmail.com. 

à votre santé!



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