A recent “climate disaster” at home inspired me to rethink my woeful wine storage ways. As the first blast of summer heat surged into Chicago, the temps went soaring to 99 degrees. I turned on my air conditioning, and realized – to my horror – that it was NOT WORKING! It was quickly approaching 80 degrees in my condo and promised to keep climbing. While most people would panic about how sweaty and uncomfortable they were going to be, how miserable sleeping would be, etc., the only thing I panicked about was … THE WINE! I HAD TO SAVE THE WINE! While some people will turn on the AC for a person or a pet, I turn mine on for the wine.
Heat is the enemy of wine (along with direct sunlight). It’s a tricky business, knowing exactly what temperatures will affect which wines over how much time, but I knew one thing for sure – I was not going to risk it.
So, from my third-floor condo, I marched down the stairs to the basement (and back up) seven times, lugging 68 bottles to the cool, dark safety of my storage room. Jesus Christ, where the hell to put it all? I filled every possible nook and cranny of the dilapidated bookshelves, then I started laying bottles on the floor. (And yes, I cracked open a cold bottle of Prosecco the minute I got back upstairs.)
So, I thought, maybe other people might want to know how wine should – and should not — be stored. This doesn’t pertain so much to the everyday bottles you buy and drink right away, but more to the bottles you want to hold onto for a while – maybe for the right menu, the right occasion, or some more time bottle-aging (that’s a whole other topic). Because I’m not one of those people with room for a huge wine fridge in my house, nor do I have a fancy, humidity- and temperature-controlled wine room, and maybe you’re not that person either.
Five Things to Know About Wine Storage
1) Cool it! Wine should be kept at a relatively constant, cool temp. According to the Society of Wine Educators, the ideal temp for storing wine is about 60 degrees.
2) Side-by-Side Wine sealed with a cork (as opposed to a screw cap) should be stored on its side, so the cork doesn’t dry out over time.
3) Don’t Do This at Home Where to not store your wine: places where bottles will be exposed to heat and light. Like in your car or garage. Or on top of the fridge. Or on the kitchen counter where sun pours in from a window.
4) Stack ‘em & Rack ‘em Try to avoid stacking bottles on top of each other, as it makes for risky removal. How many times have I had to body-block an imminent cascade of bottles, trying to find that one bottle of Cabernet? A wine rack is a great thing (and a great 60-bottle one can be found at Bed, Bath & Beyond for about $60.)
5) Put a Cork in It If you don’t finish a bottle, put the cork back in it (or use one of those Vacuvin rubber-stoppers) and refrigerate it – white and red wines. Do not leave it on the counter; the fridge will preserve it better. Yes, there are people who say refrigerated wine is bad the next day but I disagree – if you drink it within a couple days, it is generally fine.
So there you have it. I no longer keep 68 bottles of wine in my house. They are happy in the basement in a new wine rack and I get my exercise going down to pull a few bottles every now and then. Cheers!