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How to properly store a bottle of wine?

Most of the wine bottles, about 95% of them by volume, are made to be drank in 2-4 years after bottling. If you have bought a one, that can last longer, this is how to mature it properly:

If it has a cork – store it horizontally. If it’s closed by a screw cap or glass closure, standard vertical position is the best. Port, Sherry and other wines (mostly fortified) that has a plug that looks like hybrid of cork and plastic cap – vertically. Always store every type of wine in a cool dark place, because sunlight tends to destroy wine very quickly, especially when it is in a white bottle.

If You think about cellaring your wine with natural cork, keeping it at 55 – 59 °F (12 – 15 °C), horizontal position and 55 – 75% humidity is the best option. Other closure types are typically used for a wine with a shorter shelf life or the ones that should keep away oxygen flow from and into the bottle (especially white or rose wines). These wines aren’t meant for a long-term storage, so humidity doesn’t count here.

Why is it important ?

Standing in a wine corner of a supermarket can be a little confusing, when you think about longer term storage of a wine. There are bottles, that can sit on a market shelf for some 2-3 years, so logic guess is that managers know what they are doing and store this wine in a best way, so it will be at its best state, when you open it in Your home, yes? Well, the proper answer is “it depends”. Vertical storage lets pack more bottles in a small shelf, so logistic advantages are clear. Typically, the natural cork, that is used to seal wine bottles, tends to dry out in contact with oxygen and can spoil your beloved liquid in a process.

When bottle is standing upright, the oxygen attacks bottle from both directions, from the inside and outside. This leads to a situation, when it no longer protects the wine from the hazards of environment, crumbles and these crumbs tend to fall into a bottle, resulting in a wine corruption.

There is a warning sign, when you cut a foil and see a dry cork. After inserting a corkscrew into a cork, you hear that it squeaks loudly while rotating. Be aware, that in this situation tiny parts of cork can fall into a bottle. When you notice them or suspect that they might already have fallen, after opening a bottle pour them through a strainer.

There is some good news too, producents are also aware of this problem and use plastic or conglomerate cork replacements, that have no problem with drying out. Plastic or steel screw caps are unharmed by the oxygen and therefore are a great option for a wines, that shouldn’t have contact with it (light white and rose for example).  

The second good news is that 2-3 years of shelf life shouldn’t be enough to spoil that wine because as far as about 90 % of wine is made to be drunk young, it has mediocre impact on average wine drinker. What’s more, the plastic cork replacements and screw caps aren’t affected by the drying of cork, as well as cork taint, that I will write about in another article.

However, when you decide to buy some serious red dry wine, that you want to open after 10 Years of cellaring, for some special occasion, be aware that proper storing conditions can be a difference between big celebration and big disappointment.

Most of premium and middle quality wines have natural corks for two reasons: prestige and cellaring potential. Remember that sun is a more devastating enemy to Your grape juice, the UV rays break down chemical compounds in wine that leads to unpleasant taste and smell so always shield them from a direct sunlight as well as don’t buy bottles standing in shop windows.

Now You know how to handle that bottle that You brought home for a planned dinner and maybe You are now thinking about starting a little wine collection. Let me know in a comment down below.  

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