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How to Properly Store Wine (Yes, It Matters!)

Living in a 500-square-foot apartment in New York, the notion of wine storage is laughable. While I’d love to say that I keep my wine in a temperature-controlled wine fridge or on a classy wine rack, the reality is I store my wine under the kitchen sink next to the Drano and cleaning supplies. Turns out there’s a better method to preserving your bottles, even for space-limited city dwellers. I asked Adam Fleischer, owner of The Wine Spot in Cleveland, Ohio, to share his tips on Wine Storage 101.

Why it matters

“Wine is an organic product, like food, and has a life cycle. Like food, most wines taste better with a little bit of aging.” Fleischer says. If stored properly, you should be able to enjoy a fine wine at various stages of life. “Wine stored for a longer period of time (years) will change colors and flavors. White wine will darken and red wine will lighten over time. Not necessarily a bad thing, just the natural aging process at work.”

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If you don’t store wine properly, Fleischer warns, it will age prematurely. “In extreme cases, it will ‘turn’ to vinegar or develop a taste similar to nuts, like a dry sherry, when it becomes exposed to too much oxygen.” Simply put, an improperly stored wine or a wine that’s aged for too long will taste bad. That’s why at restaurants, they have you smell and taste the wine before they serve it to you — to make sure it’s not spoiled.

Short-term storage

Good news, city dwellers: You don’t need a fancy wine fridge if you plan to drink your bottles over the next few weeks or even months. Fleischer recommends storing bottles at room temperature in a dark, cool place like a basement or closet if you’re short on space. “If you keep a few bottles on hand that you plan to drink in a year or less, storing them in the closet is fine — perhaps allocate half of your shoe rack for wine,” he suggests. Avoid storing wine or Champagne in the refrigerator for more than a few weeks though. “The cold temperatures and vibration of the motor will break the wine down very quickly.” Just pop your whites, bubbly or rosé in the fridge when you are ready to drink them.

The worst spot to store wine? In a hot kitchen or next to a sunny window. So that cute wine rack next to your oven is actually a terrible idea. “Wine does not like heat or a light, especially intense sun through a window.” Fleischer says.

Longer-term storage

One of the most important things to remember when storing wine is temperature. Ideally, wine should be kept in a cool, dark environment around 55 to 65 degrees F, which helps wine age properly. For longer-term storage (think years), opt for a wine rack or shelf, a wooden or cardboard box or a wine fridge, Fleischer says. Store bottles on their sides in order to keep the cork moist — when a cork dries out it can let air inside the bottle.

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“If you’re buying particularly rare or expensive wines that you do not plan to drink for many years, a wine fridge, maintained properly may be a good investment, and may help you sleep better at night.” Fleischer says.

Storing opened bottles of wine

Simply put the cork back in the wine (red, white or bubbly) and store it in the fridge, Fleischer advises. Opened bottles of wine will last for a few days or up to a week.  “White wines and rosé wines will oxidize quicker, so you may notice a subtle change in the taste, but it should be very drinkable.” Fleischer says. “For reds, just let them sit out for 15 to 30 minutes before you drink them.”

Life’s too short to drink bad wine, so follow these tips and store your bottles safely. I’m off to purge my shoe collection to make space for my wine.

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