Wine Storage Primer


With the season of wine giving - and receiving - behind us, you might be wondering about the best way to store wine at home. For those of you with a wine cellar, the answer is simple. For those who may be new to collecting, or just don’t have a cellar in your home, there are some excellent ways to help keep wines from spoiling as you age them to perfection.

Most California white wines are meant to be drunk young – the year of purchase is typically best. So, I’m going to focus on red wines.

First let’s discuss age-worthiness. Not all wines are created equal; not all red wines are intended for aging. If you are looking for a fabulous Wednesday night red, there are many wonderful options under $25 available at your local markets or wineries. These wines, while delightful, may not be the best option for aging. Remember that your storage real estate is valuable. Reserve it for wines that improve with age and value. If you’re not sure, ask your wine sales professional, or call the winery.

So now you have your collection of favored wines for storage. What is the best way to preserve the character and value of the wine while laying it down?

Light, heat, air and fluctuation of temperature are the primary agents which will age wine prematurely. Ideally, you will lay your wine down in a dark place which sustains a temperature of around 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Understandably this ideal is always not possible. The best many of us can do is to get as close to that ideal as is reasonable given our individual resources. When selecting a spot to store your wines, chose a place which won’t let the wine get too hot – or too cold. Storing wine on an inside wall, as opposed to an outside wall, is best. Avoid fluctuation in temperature; fluctuation in temperature will prematurely age – and can spoil - wine. The best option in a typical home is a cool, dark closet that isn’t near a heat source or window.

Consider the cork. Cork is a natural substance. It is cut from the bark of the cork oak tree. It is porous, so when wet, it expands slightly. This helps it to keep a tight seal. If the cork becomes too dry, it may shrink and allow leakage. Store your wine bottles on their side. This will keep the cork wet while not putting too much pressure on the seal (as storing upside-down may do).

While it can be attractive to store wine on open shelving or racks, if you don’t have a cellar with uniform temperature and controlled humidity, it is best to keep the wine that you wish to age in the box in which it was shipped. These boxes provide an added level of protection for your wine. It is perfectly acceptable to stack several boxes on top of each other. Just be sure to consolidate wines as they are used. Avoid emptying a box on the bottom of a stack as it may collapse and cause a mess! Simply rotate bottles as you use wines to keep your stacked boxes full.

It might be fun to keep a log book and track your wines. Keeping notes on your experience of how the wines developed with age might be useful in understanding your personal preferences and in selecting wines to purchase in the future.

When you open wines you’ve stored, don’t be alarmed to find a bit of sediment. This is merely solid material from the wine which has settled to the bottom of the bottle. (If you are laying your wine on its side, it will form on the side until you shift the wine to the upright position. Handle your wine carefully so as not to disperse the sediment. If wine has sediment, you may like to decant it. But, if you pour carefully, decanting is not necessary. Just try not to re-incorporate the sediment by unnecessary movement or shaking of the bottle. Avoid pouring the last drops in which the sediment is suspended. If you do get a bit of sediment in your glass, or drink some, don’t worry! It is harmless. The worst is that it feels gritty on the palate and doesn’t look pretty in the glass.

Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy!

For more information, call or email Tracey at the winery: 707/481-6941; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hawk and Horse Vineyards