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Storing and Aging Wine

Some of the most frequent questions I'm asked concern the storage of wines. With proper storage, many wines improve with age. On the other hand, improper storage can ruin a good wine in a day. Wines meant for consumption within a few weeks should be kept cool and out of direct sunlight. The following are some general guidelines regarding the storing and aging of wines:

Temperature is the most important factor in successfully storing wines. Wines that get too cold can freeze or expand to the point that the cork is pushed from the bottle. Wines that get too warm (over 77 or 78 degrees Farenheit) will "cook" and degrade the wine. The optimal temperature for cellaring wine for long-term storage is 50 to 59 degrees Farenheit (10 to 15 degrees C). In theory, the colder the temperature, the slower the aging process, therefore a wine stored at 50 degrees will age slower than one at 58 degrees. It is also very important to maintain a constant temperature, as fluxuations can affect the aging process.

Humidity is also a factor. Low humidity can dry the cork to the point that oxygen can seep in and come in contact with the wine. The ideal relative humidity is approximately 75 per cent.

Position is important too. It is important for wine to be in contact with the cork so that the cork does not dry out, thus allowing oxygen to come in contact with the wine. Stored wine bottles are normally kept in a horizontal position, although many wineries store and ship bottles in an inverted position. Shock or agitation to aging wine bottles can disturb the sediment and affect the aging process.

Sunlight can also affect the aging process. It is important to keep wines out of direct sunlight, which is one reason many wines, especially reds, are distributed in tinted bottles. As such, white wines are usually the most susceptable to sunlight. 

Wine Storage Summary


50 to 59 degrees F

Relative Humidity

75 percent

Position of Bottle

Horizontal or Inverted


No Direct Sunlight

Storing Open Wines

A wine's flavor will rapidly degrade with prolonged contact with air, therefore the storage of wine after it is opened must be accomplished by limiting air contact. The most effective way is to transfer the wine to a smaller bottle. Most premium wine bottles contain 750 ml of wine whereas many dessert wines are sold in 375 ml bottles. Transferring a half-bottle of open wine to a clean 375 ml bottle (filling as much as possible) is the preferred method. Vacuum wine savers are available that consist of a vacuum pump and bottle cap with a valve. Placing the cap on the bottle and removing the air from the bottle will minimize air contact, however I have found that the seals deteriorate with age. I recommend the nitrogen gas cylinders from which you inject a small amount of nitrogen into an open bottle of wine and then seal with the original cork. The nitrogen does not affect the taste of the wine and prevents the contact of oxygen. These devices usually cost between $10 to $15 and can preserve from 50 to 100 bottles, depending on the size.

Long-term Storage and Aging

Not all wines will benefit from long-term aging. In fact, most wines produced are meant to be consumed within a year of the bottling date. White, sparkling, sweet blush, Nouveau and red table wines are less affected by aging and should be consumed in a relatively short time-- usually within six months from bottling. Red wines with high tannins and concentrated flavors are generally more affected by the aging process. In general, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah will generally age more effectively than a Merlot or Pinot Noir.


Aging of Varietal Wines


Aging in Years

Cabernet Sauvignon

4 to 20


2 to 12


4 to 20

Pinot Noir

2 to 8


4 to 16


2 to 6


1 to 6


2 to 30

Semillon (Dry Wines)

2 to 7

Source: The Oxford Companion to Wine


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