Before going into the details of wine preservation, let's go over the basics of what makes wine go bad in the first place.
Why Does Wine Go Bad?
For the most part, improper storage is to be blamed for the majority of wines going bad. Improper storage procedures generally contribute to over-exposure to heat, humidity, light, or vibration, which cause unwanted chemical reactions in the wine.
One easy way to check if your wine has gone bad is by giving it a quick smell looking for any hint of sour smells. There are a few other ways to tell if your wine has gone bad, but the point is, if you collect or enjoy wine, you will want to make sure you are properly storing your wine to avoid the same fate..
The 5 Best Practices for Wine Preservation
Now that we understand what makes a wine go bad, let's talk about how to avoid that situation.
Understanding that our "4 horsemen of the wine apocalypse" are the evils of heat, humidity, light, and vibration, our best practices for wine preservation are all centered around avoiding these 4 so that you can store (and enjoy!) your collection for the long haul.
1. Store Your Wine at the Proper Temperature
The temperature at which you store your wine determines how long your wine will last & whether it will maintain (and possibly refine!) it's fine taste.
Keeping your wine at the proper temperature is extremely beneficial to the long-term storage of wine.
Wine should be stored in a dark place, with a steady temperature between 50° and 55°F (10° and 12°C).
Wine should never be stored above 60°F (16°C). At these temperatures the wine will age prematurely, decreasing its quality, and in some cases making it completely undrinkable.
This is something most people don't realize when storing their wine somewhere in their house. They believe that because their wine is in their pantry or dark space that it will be fine. However, most rooms in the house fluctuate into ranges much higher than is safe for your wines.
2. Store Your Wine at the Proper Humidity
One of the most common storage issues is when people store their wine in an area with low humidity. Kitchen fridges and storage in drier desert heat can both be incredibly detrimental to your wine.
Wine needs a fairly high level of humidity to maintain its flavor and smell, and the moisture in the air helps the cork retain its structure, so if you live in a dry climate it's important to keep your wine in a somewhat humid environment. Wine bottles should be kept in a relatively closed-off space so that the humidity isn't susceptible to fluctuations.
Wine bottles should ideally be kept at between 70 and 80 percent humidity to maintain their flavor.
Most higher-end wine coolers, as in any that cost more than $500 - $600, have integrated humidity and climate control. These coolers will allow you to store your wine at the proper humidity. This is another reason not to cheap out on your wine fridge, as most "Amazon-bought" $300-500 dollar units DO NOT have humidity control and are just glorified refrigerators, which, as we will explain shortly, will actually ruin your wines if left over time.
3. Don't Expose Your Stored Wine to Light
Whether it's white wine, red wine, or fine wine, your wine bottles should always be stored away from light. The UV rays from direct sunlight can degrade your wine’s flavor & aroma rapidly. This phenomenon is called Light Strike.
Light strike can ruin wine stored in clear bottles in as little as 3 hours (ever wonder why wine is stored in tinted glass? It's like sunglasses for your wine 😎). When wine bottles get flooded by UV rays or fluorescent light, the amino acids in wine that give it its distinct taste turn into foul-smelling compounds. So store your wine far from light!
4. Store Your Wine Horizontally
One of the most important rules of proper wine preservation is to store your wines horizontally. Wine stored on its side allows for the cork to remain moist, which will prevent air from entering the bottle. If the cork dries, it will allow oxygen in that will quickly degrade your wine. This is usually a big problem with older bottles stored vertically in non-humidity controlled environments, as their corks dry FAST.
5. Use a Wine Cellar or Wine Cooler
Investing in a wine cellar or wine cooler is the number one thing you can do to preserve your wine for the long haul.
These dedicated spaces will allow you to keep your wine in the ideal position, protected from the elements, at the exact temperature and humidity necessary for it to not only last but to refine with age.
Wine cellars are built by sealing off a dedicated room in your house and use an air pump/humidity control system to add climate control to the room.
While very effective, they are also quite expensive, with the pumps and start up equipment costing around $10k just to start.
Wine coolers offer a more accessible version.
A wine cooler is purpose-built to keep your wines at the perfect temperature and humidity, as well as protect them from light, heat and vibration. If you want proper wine storage and to have the ability to drink cold wine at a moment's notice, then a wine cooler sounds like the perfect wine preservation system for you.
Be sure not to confuse a wine cooler with a regular fridge, however. This is a a common mistake made by amateur wine collectors. Although regular fridges keep your wines cool, they actually cool your wine TOO much, which can result in the wine icing over or the cork shrinking, allowing oxygen (and other nearby fridge odors) to seep in, and they are much too dry.
These reasons are why specific fridges built for preserving your wine are so crucial, and why you absolutely need a wine preservation solution if you are serious about keeping your wine collection for the long haul.
For More Information about Wine Coolers
For more information on wine coolers and a full rundown of the different types there are, check out our Ultimate Wine Cooler Buying Guide, or check out our selection of high quality wine coolers available here.