Wine storage procedures affect whether a particular wine will spoil, and it can change how the wine will taste. Wine needs to be stored in an environment that provides both a consistent temperature and humidity, as a consistent environment keeps the wine from going bad or turning to vinegar. The wine storage phase starts at bottling and ends when the consumer opens and serves it.
Traditionally, bottled wine was stored horizontally while it aged in the cellar. When the wine was opened, the condition of the cork told you if the wine had been stored properly. Dry corks indicated that the wine was not stored horizontally and was kept in a dry, cold environment. While the probability of spoilage was greater if the wine was not aged in the correct environment, the wine may not have always spoiled, but it probably was not as good as it could have been if it had been aged properly. Modern wineries use temperature and humidity controlled aging and storage facilities to ensure that their wine ages properly.
Storing Wine at Home
While wine racks are attractive, they do not protect the wine from sunlight, and they cannot control the temperature at which the wine is stored. If you are collecting wines, you will want to invest in a wine cellar. Depending on how many wines you want to store, you can get a tabletop case that holds up to 12 bottles, an under-the-counter unit or even build a wine cellar in your house. Storing wines properly not only prevents the wine from spoiling, it also means that the wine will be ready to drink when you want to drink it. When you store wine, keep your reds between 50 and 65 degrees and keep your whites between 45 and 50 degrees.
Wine Serving Temperature
As a general rule we’ve always been told to drink red wine at room temperature and to drink white wine chilled. But depending on the season, room temperature can fluctuate, and many chilled wines are actually too cold. You may have a personal preference for a warm white or a chilled red, but these are some general serving temperature guidelines that will bring out the best in your wine.
- Sparkling Wines & Light-Bodied White Wines, should be served between 40 and 50 degrees
- Light to Medium Bodied Reds & Full Bodied White Wines should be served between 50 and 60 degrees.
- Ports and Full Bodied Reds should be served between 60 and 65 degrees.
If you keep your wines in a temperature-controlled cellar, they will be close to (or at) their serving temperature as soon as you'd like to serve it. However, if your wines are at room temperature, you will want to chill them. You can chill red wine to preference; remember that temperature will affect the taste, look and characteristics of wine:
- Red wines that are too warm will taste more like alcohol, and the flavors will seem bland.
- Sparkling wines that are too warm will be more frothy than bubbly.
- Sweet white wines that are too warm can taste unbalanced and lose their vibrancy.
Opening a bottle of wine can be intimidating. Pulling a very snug-fit cork out of a narrow-necked bottle can be difficult and require a bit of force, but you can easily master this technique with some practice. If you are new to opening wine, begin by using a simple wine key. A wine key is a simple tool that has a small knife blade and a corkscrew with a lever. You will use the knife to remove the foil on the top of the wine bottle, and then place the tip of the corkscrew just off center of the cork. Begin to twist the corkscrew into to bottle, until the lever rests on top of the bottle, then you can press the lever down and pull the cork up, if the cork doesn’t come all the way up, twist the corkscrew deeper into the cork and pull up on the lever again.
You will experience corks that break and corks that are dry and tight; these conditions are not a reflection of how capable you are at opening wine, but they can be challenging. When you open wine, make sure your hands are clean and dry to prevent the bottle from slipping, keep a clean towel or napkin handy to wipe spills.
When you serve wine, make sure your glasses are clean and are the right shape for the wine you are drinking. You don’t have to use expensive glassware, a simple good-quality and very clean glass is fine. The shape of the glass, however, is important; using the right shape of glass for the wine helps to develop the bouquet and flavors of the wine. Serve red wines and white wines in rounded glasses. Each glass type is specifically designed to enhance the aroma and bouquet of a particular wine and increase the enjoyment of the wine-drinking experience. Red wines can be served in the following glasses depending on their type:
Some dessert wines are red, however, they require different glass types as follows:
- Port Glass
- Sherry Glass
- Madeira Glass
- Standard Sweet Glass
- Sauternes Glass
Be sure to note the amount of guests that will be having wine, and pour an equal amount of spirit into each glass. Each style of wine requires a different pouring amount, for example, champagne can be poured into flutes or coupe glasses until they almost fill the glass (Usually though, the spirit is poured until the effervescence reaches the top of the glass, as the bubbles dissipate, it leaves the perfect amount of champagne behind in the glass). However, white still wines are poured differently. The average white wine glass has a bowl (the liquid containment section held in place by the stem) that stands 4" tall, which is narrow towards the bottom. Some red wine glasses share the same specs. These wines are usually poured at the 2" mark, which although seems like half way, is actually below the center line as the cup tapers towards the bottom. This allows the drinker to swirl the wine to introduce oxygen and let the wine breathe as well as properly insert their nose into the glass to enjoy the wine's aroma.
By following the basics of storing wine and keeping wines at the right temperatures, you will begin to enjoy your wines at their best. When you open and serve wine, remember to have fun and enjoy the experience of drinking wine with family and friends.