What is the proper way to store wine?

Wine storage can seem complicated, but following a few basic guidelines will ensure your wine keeps well for months or years. Proper storage conditions prevent premature aging and faults from developing in the wine. With some simple preparation, anyone can learn how to store wine correctly.

What are the optimal conditions for storing wine?

There are four main factors to consider for wine storage:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Light exposure
  • Vibration

The ideal conditions for wine storage are:

  • Temperature between 10-15°C (50-59°F)
  • Constant humidity around 70%
  • No direct light exposure
  • No vibration or loud noises

Maintaining these conditions provides a stable environment that minimizes chemical and physical changes in wine over time. Let’s look at each factor more closely.


Temperature is one of the most important factors in proper wine storage. If wine gets too warm for too long, it can start to mature prematurely. Higher temperatures accelerate chemical reactions, leading to a loss of fresh fruit flavors and a quicker evolution of the wine. These effects take place more rapidly at temperatures above 20°C (68°F).

Cooler wine temperatures slow down these chemical changes. The generally agreed upon optimal temperature range is between 10-15°C (50-59°F). With cooler conditions, the wine evolves slowly and gracefully, retaining its nuances longer.

What happens if wine gets too cold? While wine won’t “freeze” in a household fridge, temperatures approaching freezing can throw sediment into suspension and shock the wine. Extended freezing can push corks up and lead to oxidation. Just like high heat, extreme cold denatures the flavor compounds. So it’s best to avoid big temperature swings.


Humid conditions keep corks moist and swollen, preventing excess air from seeping in. Dry air leads to shrinkage, increasing oxidation risks. The relative humidity (RH) inside a wine cellar or fridge should be in the range of 50-80%, with an ideal target around 70%.

Humidity is also important for maintaining wine at the proper serving temperature when opened. As humidity evaporates from wine glass, the wine starts to warm up. Keeping humidity moderately high reduces this effect.

Light Exposure

Light degradation is a chemical reaction in wine that creates “off” aromas and flavors. Wines containing sulfur and phenolic compounds are especially sensitive to light. With prolonged light exposure, white wines take on a brownish hue and reds transform to an orange-brick color.

To prevent lightstrike, wine should be stored in dark places. Colored glass bottles offer some protection, but clear glass and translucent materials like plastic provide little barrier against light. Window sills and bright countertops are not suitable long-term storage locations.


Vibration and motion can disturb sediment in wine. As red wines age, chemical compounds aggregate and fall out of suspension. These sediment particles rest quietly when wine is handled gently. But vibrations can mix the sediment back into the wine, making it cloudy. Excessive motion can also accelerate oxidation as wine sloshes around in a partially filled bottle.

Avoiding disturbance keeps sediment consolidated. Wine cellars and refrigerators should be placed in stable locations away from household vibrations. And wine racks should securely hold each bottle upright and still.

How to choose the proper wine storage location?

The conditions described above can be achieved in many locations around the home. Popular storage options each have their own advantages and drawbacks.

Wine Cooler Refrigerators

Freestanding wine coolers offer a compact, self-contained storage solution perfect for small collections. Models are available as single-zone or multi-zone, with each zone independently set to a desired temperature. Wine is kept cool year-round, with humidity provided by an internal fan or cooling system.

The main limitations are capacity and cost. Smaller undercounter units hold 20-50 bottles. Larger freestanding coolers may reach 100+ bottles. Due to their specialized cooling systems, wine fridges can cost over $1,000 depending on features and capacity.

Cellar Rooms

Constructing a dedicated wine cellar is the premium long-term storage option. Wine cellars are rooms controlled for temperature, humidity and light exposure. Walls and doors are insulated, a cooling system provides climate control, and lighting is kept minimal.

Cellar rooms offer essentially unlimited capacity for hundreds or thousands of bottles. The space can be customized with high-end fixtures and designs. However, the costs involved make cellars unrealistic for casual wine collectors.

Basement Storage

For those with a basement, storing wine there can provide reasonably stable conditions at no extra cost. Basements maintain cool temperatures year-round once insulated. Systems like humidifiers and dehumidifiers can regulate moisture levels.

The main caveats are controlling light and vibration. Windows and lighting may need adjustment for darker storage. And household vibrations can travel easily if the wine isn’t properly isolated. But with some tweaking, basements can be adapted into a functional wine storage space.

General Home Storage

It’s certainly possible to store wine around the home if certain guidelines are followed. The bottle should be kept at a steady, moderate temperature away from light sources, vibrations, and strong smells from the kitchen or laundry room. A dark closet or cabinet works well, provided the space isn’t prone to high heat.

Short-term home storage can be effective for wines you plan to consume within weeks. But environmental fluctuations make this approach less than ideal for long-term cellaring.

How should wine bottles be stored?

Once you establish a suitable wine storage area, proper bottle storage comes down to two principles:

  1. Bottles must remain upright
  2. Bottles should be gently handled to minimize disturbance

Keeping the cork wet and the sediment settled requires vertically storing wine. The best option is to use a wine rack.

Wine Racks

Wine racks provide structured slots for individually securing bottles upright. Racks come in designs like diamond cubbies, wire grids, or wooden slats. They are available as countertop units or cabinet-mounted installations. For deep storage of hundreds of bottles, column-shelving and pallet racking systems work well.

Beyond holding bottles vertically, wine racks also protect wine from vibration. The tight fit grips bottles firmly in place during any environmental shakes or rumblings. This differs from boxed storage where wine may rattle around on a shelf.

One tip for wine racks is to angle them slightly downwards towards the neck of the bottle. This keeps the wine pressed firmly into the cork, which reduces air exposure.

Box Storage

Storing wine loose in cardboard or wooden boxes is not recommended. Without structure, bottles move independently and may fall or bang into one another. Over time, this motion can disturb sediment and lead to oxidation.

If you do store wine in boxes, limit stacking to 1-2 layers only. Wrap each bottle well in bubble wrap or foam. Avoid moving or opening boxes to prevent rattling. Box storage is best suited for very short-term storage before drinking.

On its Side

Never store wine bottles sideways long-term. Sideways orientation puts the cork in contact with wine. This can cause the cork to degrade and lose its air tight seal. If stored on the side, wine should be consumed within a few weeks.

What mistakes should be avoided when storing wine?

Now that proper storage conditions and methods are clear, let’s examine common mistakes that could compromise your wine:

Temperature Fluctuation

Frequent and extreme shifts in temperature shorten the longevity of wine. The worst culprits are places like garages, attics, and sheds. These spaces swing wildly between hot summer days and cold winter nights. Storing wine in one stable environment is best.

Light Exposure

As described earlier, light degrades wine. Avoid any bright or direct light near wine when possible. Never store bottles on a windowsill even if the view is nice!

Lack of Humidity

Dry air causes corks to dry out and shrink. Check humidity levels in storage areas and invest in a humidifier if needed. For small spaces like wine fridges, humidity control is regulated automatically.

Kitchen Heat and Odors

Don’t keep wine near ovens and stoves. Kitchens generate heat and food odors that can seep into wine nearby. The same goes for laundry rooms and garages with car exhaust.

Lack of Air Circulation

Still air promotes humidity, mold growth, and “cork taint.” Ensure passive air circulation in storage spaces to maintain freshness.


As covered earlier, agitating wine accelerates chemical changes. Minimize vibration by using wine racks and isolating bottles from environmental disturbances.

How long can wine be properly stored?

When stored correctly, wine can evolve positively for many years. Some guidelines on maximizing wine cellar life:

  • White wines – 1-6 years for crisp whites, up to 20 years for oaked whites
  • Red wines – 2-6 years for young reds, 10-25+ years for structured reds
  • Sparkling wines – 1-3 years for cheaper styles, up to 10+ years for quality champagne
  • Sweet dessert wines – 10-20+ years
  • Fortified wines – 20-100+ years

These ranges account for proper storage conditions. Lower quality and more fragile wines won’t age as gracefully. Well-made wines from good vintages hold their substance much longer. Taste each wine to determine when peak maturity has been reached.

How should you handle and serve wine after storage?

Once it’s time to enjoy your stored wines, handle them gently up until pouring:

  • Retrieve bottle carefully to limit vibration
  • Store open bottle upright and finish within 2-3 days
  • Pour wine smoothly into a decanter or glasses
  • For old reds, decant first then serve sediment-free

Don’t forget about the serving temperature – serve whites around 8-12°C (46-54°F) and reds from 15-18°C (59-64°F). Allowing the bottle to rest before opening, and the wine to breathe once poured, improves the drinking experience.


Proper wine storage sets your bottles up for success. The ideal conditions are cool temperature (10-15°C), moderate humidity (50-80%), darkness, and no vibration. These parameters can be met in specialized wine fridges, cellar rooms, modified basements, or simply a dark, stable cupboard. Wherever you store wine, keep bottles upright and handle gently at all times. With some care and preparation, wine can develop beautifully for many years of enjoyment.

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