People tend to think red wines are okay to store at room temperature because they drink them at room temperature. (Which, since the advent of central heating, you really shouldn’t. But serving temperature is another topic.)
Now, you might be thinking, “But I don’t plan to age my wines.”
It’s true most wine made these days is meant to be consumed within a few years. That $10 California Cab is not going to taste any better with age.
After several trips around the sun, it starts to lose its freshness. So don’t bother holding on to it, hoping it will eventually taste like a $50 bottle from Napa.
But you can still do some pretty serious damage to a bottle of wine in a short time without some basic precautions. For example, keeping it in one of those wine racks above the stove that home builders seem to think is a great idea.
I don’t know about you, but a prefer my wine not be cooked before I drink it!
And if you are looking to age your collection of precious Barolos or Bordeauxs, then it’s even more important to store your red wines at the right temperature and in the right storage conditions. This allows the wine to develop new aromas and flavors during the aging process while holding onto its fruit and acidity.
There’s nothing worse than opening that special bottle you’ve been saving for a decade, only to find that it tastes like vinegar.
Keep reading to find out the best temperature to store red wine and how to create the perfect storage conditions.
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What is the Best Temperature to Store Red Wine?
Wines age four times faster when they’re stored at room temperature.* And I don’t mean in a good way. So, keeping them at cooler temperatures helps preserve the good aromas and flavors.
But don’t go too cold. At 20°F wine will start to freeze and force the cork out of the bottle. A wine popsicle might sound tasty on a hot summer day, but trust me, it won’t do your wine any favors.
As a general rule, the correct temperature at which to store red wines is between 55 and 60°F (12-15°C). If you want to get more precise, the ideal temperature for full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon is 60°F. And for light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir, aim for 55°F.
Check out more differences between Pinot Noir vs Cabernet Sauvignon.
You also want to keep your wines at a consistent temperature. Wine corks have a lot of elasticity and contain air bubbles. Temperature fluctuations will cause them to expand and contract. This lets oxygen into the bottle. And too much oxygen is a bad thing for your delicious vino.
How Should You Store Red Wine?
Transporting Your Wine
Before you even get your wine home make sure it’s been cared for properly. Be wary of buying wine from any store that feels hot when you walk inside. Or displays its bottles in direct sunlight.
You also shouldn’t leave wine in a hot car for a long time while you run errands. Or forget it in your trunk when you get home.
If you’re visiting a local winery, bring a cooler with you. Even better, pack a picnic in the cooler. Once you’ve consumed all your snacks at the winery, you can fill it with your wine purchases. Make sure to keep it in the passenger area of your car so it doesn’t get too hot on the ride home.
When ordering wine online, keep the time of year in mind. Avoid having wine shipped during the hottest months of the year. A case sitting in a 100-degree delivery truck for several days is no bueno.
If you can’t avoid it, look for sites that offer temperature-controlled or expedited shipping.
Wine Storage Conditions
Besides storing your wine at the proper temperature, there are a few other best practices to follow when creating the ideal storage conditions.
Humidity levels should be between 55-75% (70% is ideal). Too low and the cork will dry out and let in oxygen. Too high and mold will grow. You can get an inexpensive device like this to monitor humidity levels.
Wine needs a dark storage area, with no direct sunlight. It should even be kept away from fluorescent lights. Why? UV rays can cause chemical reactions with the wine’s amino acids. And this will make your wine stinky (like wet dog stinky).
If you don’t have a dark place to store your wines, wrap the bottles in a cloth or use a bag to block the light.
You’ll also want good ventilation to retain your wine’s flavor. That airtight closet with your special spice collection might seem like the ideal spot. But you’ll think twice when your Pinot smells like paprika. Find a spot that’s free of strong smells and has good airflow.
And while you may enjoy having a glass of vino while jamming out to Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations,” you’ll want to avoid vibrations when it comes to storing your wine. Over time they’ll cause the quality to depreciate, reducing aromatics and dulling the flavors.
Wine bottles should be stored on their side. This keeps the cork moist, so it doesn’t dry out and oxidize the wine. Note that this is not an issue with screw caps (which are being used more and more for quality wines!).
Red Wine Storage Options
A wine fridge, also known as a wine cooler, is a great way to keep your bottles of wine at the optimal temperature.
Many also have dual temperature zones, meaning you can store wine in the top half at different temperatures than the bottom half.
Before purchasing one, make sure you have space to put it in a location that is also temperature controlled.
It may seem convenient to keep it on the sunporch so you can whip out a fresh bottle when Aunt Sally’s glass gets low. But the fridge will have to work a lot harder to maintain a constant temperature, so it won’t last as long.
If a wine fridge isn’t enough to hold your wine collection, consider building a wine cellar for long-term storage.
This will give you more flexibility to organize the bottles by region, country, vintage, or grape type. Plus, labels make it so you can impress your friends by sending them down to grab a bottle of the “1982 Chateau Lafite.”
A basement can be a good place for a wine cellar if it’s a consistent, cool temperature and there isn’t too much humidity. Or for a bit more money, you can make the space temperature controlled.
Did you know there are companies that will store your wine for you? If you don’t have the space or want a higher level of quality control, you can send your special bottles off for safekeeping.
You can rest easy knowing your wines will receive precise climate control and better security. Plus, most professional storage companies offer services like authentication from wine experts, safer shipping methods, and full insurance on your wine’s value.
Professional storage is typically charged as a monthly fee by the case.
Wine Cabinet or Wine Rack
These should be your last-resort options and only used for short-term storage. Wines can last up to a year if the temperature is fairly stable and doesn’t exceed 80°F.
A cabinet or closet is better for keeping the light out than an exposed wine rack. Just make sure it’s free of strong smells and has good ventilation.
For a wine rack, find a location in your house that’s away from direct sunlight and that doesn’t get too hot. Ideally, a basement if the humidity isn’t too high.
How to Store Red Wine That’s Been Opened
So, you opened that bottle you’ve been dying to try and want to savor it over the next few days. Or maybe your bestie is coming over later in the week and you want to save a glass.
Red wines can generally last 3-5 days after opening if they’re stored properly. The more tannins the wine has, the longer it will keep. In fact, high-tannin wines are often better on the second or third day after opening.
The most important thing is keeping the bottle at cool temperatures. You can put a wine stopper in it and pop it back into your wine fridge. Or if you don’t have one, you can store it in your regular fridge. Just make sure to take it out an hour before you plan to drink it so it has time to warm up a bit.
Then pour a glass, sit back, and enjoy that tasty vino!
*Study conducted by the Edmund Mach Foundation wine academy in San Michele all’Adige, Italy
What’s your red-wine storage method of choice?