How to Store Wine at Home: Why Horizontal is the Way to Go

wine bottles layed horizontal

When it comes to preserving the quality and flavor of your cherished wine collection, there are numerous factors to consider.

Temperature, humidity, and even the choice of wine racks all play a role in maintaining the perfect environment. Yet, one fundamental aspect that often goes overlooked is the orientation in which you store your bottles of wine.

In this article, we’ll explore why storing wine bottles horizontally is the preferred method, and how this simple technique can make a significant difference in your wine’s aging process and overall quality. (1)

How to Store Wine Properly

Let’s learn the best way to store wine at home, exploring the aspects of humidity control, temperature management, and more:

horizontal bottle position

Temperature

When it comes to wine storage, temperature is a critical factor, and it’s important to recognize that different wines have varying temperature needs.

White Wines

Whites are generally best stored at cooler temperatures. The ideal temperature range for white wines typically falls between 45°F and 55°F (7°C to 13°C). This consistently cool environment helps preserve the freshness, acidity, and delicate aromas of white wine.

Storing them at slightly lower temperatures ensures that they age gracefully and maintain their vibrant character.

Red Wines

On the other hand, red wine thrives in slightly warmer conditions. The recommended temperature range for red wine typically ranges from 55°F to 65°F (13°C to 18°C).

This range allows them to develop complex flavors, soften tannins, and achieve their full potential. Storing red wine at slightly higher temperatures than white wines ensures that it reaches its peak maturity and provides a rich and enjoyable tasting experience.

Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines should be stored at cold temperatures, typically around 45°F (7°C), to maintain their effervescence and preserve their lively, bubbly nature.

wooden shelves on a wine fridge

Humidity Control

Maintaining the right level of humidity is another key factor in storing wine properly. Wine corks are not only vulnerable to drying out but also to mold growth if the humidity is excessively high.

Ideally, wine storage environments should have a humidity level of around 70%. This helps keep the cork in good condition and prevents it from shrinking or expanding due to moisture fluctuations. When the cork remains intact, it continues to create a perfect seal, keeping the wine safe from oxidation.

Investing in a hygrometer to monitor and control humidity levels within your storage area is a wise move, ensuring your wine matures as intended.

Vibration Reduction

Wine is a delicate elixir that can be adversely affected by even the slightest vibrations. Constant movement or vibrations can disrupt the aging process by stirring up sediment and affecting the wine’s chemistry.

To counter this, it’s crucial to store your wine in a location where it won’t be subject to excessive vibrations. Avoid placing wine racks near heavy machinery or in areas with frequent foot traffic.

For collectors in urban areas or apartments, wine fridges with vibration-dampening technology are a valuable solution. These specialized appliances are designed to minimize disturbances and maintain the tranquil environment essential for proper wine aging.

Light Protection

Light, especially ultraviolet (UV) and direct sunlight, is an adversary of wine. UV rays can degrade organic compounds within the wine, leading to a phenomenon known as “light strike” or “light damage.” This can result in off-flavors and unpleasant odors in your wine.

To protect your wine collection, store it away from direct sunlight and use UV-filtering glass or window treatments if your storage area has windows. Wine fridges also come equipped with UV-resistant glass doors, providing an additional layer of defense against the harmful effects of light.

By shielding your wine from light exposure, you ensure that it maintains its intended character and quality throughout its aging process.

wine rack with many bottles

The Significance of Wine Bottle Orientation

Storing bottles horizontally, with the label facing upward, has been a tradition for centuries, and for good reason. This method is not merely a matter of tradition but a practice for long-term wine storage rooted in science and practicality.

Cork Preservation

One of the primary reasons for storing bottles horizontally is to keep the cork moist. Most wine bottles are sealed with cork stoppers, and maintaining the cork’s moisture is essential to prevent it from drying out and allowing air to seep into the bottle. When wine comes into contact with air, it can undergo oxidation, which can significantly alter the wine’s taste and aroma, often for the worse.

Storing the bottle on its side ensures that the cork remains in contact with the wine, keeping it moist and preventing the ingress of oxygen. This simple step can prolong the life of your wine and help it age gracefully.

Sediment Settlement

As wine ages, especially red wines and those with higher tannin content, sediment can naturally form in the bottle. Sediment consists of solids, including tannins and grape particles, which gradually precipitate out of the wine over time. When you store your bottles horizontally, these sediments spread evenly along the inner side of the bottle, preventing them from settling in one area.

When it’s time to open the bottle, the sediment can be easily decanted, leaving you with a clearer and more visually appealing pour. Storing bottles upright increases the likelihood of sediment collecting at the bottom, making it more challenging to separate when you pour the wine.

Temperature Stability

Another advantage of horizontal wine storage is temperature stability. When unopened wine bottles are laid flat, they have more consistent contact with the shelf or wine rack they are placed on. This allows for better temperature distribution throughout the bottle, reducing the risk of temperature variations that can occur when bottles are stored upright.

Temperature stability is important because fluctuations in temperature can adversely affect wine quality, causing it to expand and contract, potentially pushing the cork out or allowing air to enter the bottle.

How to Store Leftover Wine

Storing leftover wine can be just as important as preserving newly opened bottles. If you find yourself with a few bottles that have some wine left after a gathering or tasting, it’s essential to store them correctly to maintain their flavor.

To do this, consider re-corking the bottles tightly to minimize exposure to air. If the original cork isn’t suitable for resealing, a wine shop would often carry specialized wine stoppers designed for this purpose.

storing opened wine

Store the opened bottles standing upright to minimize surface area exposed to oxygen, and position them away from direct light and temperature fluctuations.

By following these simple steps, you can extend the life of your open wine and enjoy its quality over the next few days or even weeks.

The Role of Wine Fridges

For those who take wine storage seriously, investing in a separate wine fridge, also known as a wine cooler or wine refrigerator, can be a game-changer. Wine fridges are designed specifically to create an optimal environment for storage (similar to that of a wine cellar). They offer precise temperature control, humidity regulation, and protection from external factors such as light and vibrations. (2)

keeping wine in a wine fridge

When it comes to storing wine horizontally, many wine fridges come equipped with specialized shelving designed to cradle bottles (both red and white wine) on their sides. This not only maximizes space but also ensures that your wine benefits from all the advantages of horizontal storage.

Additionally, wine fridges often have UV-resistant glass doors to further shield your wines from harmful light exposure.

Conclusion

In the world of wine storage, the small details can make a big difference.

Storing your bottles horizontally, with the label facing up, is a simple yet effective practice that can help preserve the quality and character of your wines. It keeps corks moist, encourages even sediment distribution, and maintains temperature stability.

By following this time-tested tradition, you can ensure that your wine ages gracefully and provides you with an exquisite drinking experience when the time comes to uncork your favorite bottles. So, when it comes to store wine at home, remember: horizontal is the way to go.

Stan Kushkin

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