Once we buy wine, either we want to drink it right away or keep it for years believing that it will have much better taste. However, as it is a living drink, there are optimum storage temperatures to be aware of. In this article, one will find answers to whether refrigeration is necessary or not.
If so, at which degrees the wine must be kept? In addition to that, detailed information about ideal conditions to store the wine will be given with the hope that it will be a big help to wine lovers.
There are many different styles of wines such as sparkling, white, red, rosé, sweet, fortified, and aromatized wines. First of all, to be safe, we must know that wine bottles do not like high temperatures whatever the style is. Above 82 °F (28 °C) is considered high for all styles.
Due to their chemical structure, not all types of wines have the same behavior (resistance) to different conditions. Refrigeration of the wine bottles seems to be a good way to keep them safe. However, having an ideal temperature to store wine is not the only way to keep the wine in good shape.
What Is the Best Temperature for Wine?
The temperature is the most important factor during wine maturation and aging, even starting from the winemaking process. Refrigeration is key for the shelf-life of wines that are especially desired to be kept for a long time.
The ideal storage temperature is generally from 50 °F (10°C) to 55°F (13°C). Degrees below 50°F (10°C), delay aging while over 55°F (13°C) accelerate the aging process.
The wine gets deteriorated and is cooked at above 86°F (30°C). When the wine is smelt, you can detect caramelized, nutty, and cooked fruit notes on the nose.
Fortified and full-bodied wines can be stored at 59 °F (15 °C) with no adverse effects.
What Happens if Refrigeration Is Not Good Enough?
Room temperature is considered to be between 60-68°F (16 – 20 °C), however, in general, home/room temperatures often can be more than this. So, it is risky for wines to be kept in a room where we are not sure about having a constant temperature.
Therefore, we need refrigeration as fluctuating temperatures can make the wine go bad and shortens its life easily while constant temperatures allow the wine to maturate and age smoothly.
High temperatures also cause the corks to pop out of the neck of the bottle, consequently leading to wine oxidation. Due to inaccurate refrigeration, sediments at the bottom of the bottle, color changes from yellow to orange or brown for whites, and to brick-red color for red wines, and also undesired smells.
These are the most common defects that we face under imperfect conditions. Moreover, when refrigerated to too low temperatures, crystals can be observed at the cork or in the bottle.
How to Refrigerate the Opened Bottles?
Once the bottle is opened it must be stored either in the refrigerator or in a wine fridge.
While full-bodied wines can stay fresh for up to 3-5 days, sweet wines can be stored for even one month in the refrigerator while still keeping their freshness.
As white and rosé wines are more delicate, 1-3 days is the maximum period to stay fresh in the opened bottle. Here, the important thing is to have knowledge about the wine’s body. For example, if it is a well-structured full-bodied wine with high tannin content, it can stay longer in the refrigerator than a light-bodied rosé wine.
Please be aware that wine is a complex drink. If there is a food source in the refrigerator that has a strong smell, it can also contaminate the wine.
Other Elements Affecting the Shelf-Life of Wine
Even though refrigeration is the key element for wine storage, it is not enough to only mention the temperature. There are a few more factors affecting the wine’s quality as follows.
Humidity plays an important role in wine storage. Wine corks need to stay moist in order not to let the air in. Refrigerators have mostly around 65% humidity which is relatively low for corks and causes them to dry out. Ideal humidity is between 75 – 85%.
House basements or cellars are the most convenient places for ensuring such conditions without extra energy. If it is unlikely to have desired humidity, wine refrigerators are ideally designed for that.
It is general knowledge that the sun has naturally harmful UV lights for the body and wine. It is fine if the wines are stored in a cabinet or a refrigerator away from direct sunlight. Due to the exposure to UV light, wines can be spoiled.
In order to protect our wines from sunlight, we can select light-proof colored bottles (brown or green). We need to pay special attention to light-colored wines as they are more sensitive to light.
It is commonly known that keeping the wine on the rack horizontally is the best way of placing it. There are still a few things to know before doing it. The wine bottles have either 100% natural, semi-natural, or 100% synthetic closures. As long as the cork material is known, a better decision can be made.
If it is synthetic corks that we deal with, keeping the wine bottle horizontally is not essential where they present a relatively tighter seal. Because; unlike natural corks, synthetic corks do not have pores that let the air in. At the supermarket, it is difficult to know if a wine is capped with natural oak cork or synthetic material.
To have the correct information, we can check the label; if not remarked, search the winery on the internet or contact the producer directly.
Oxygen is one of the biggest enemies of wine. Regarding unopened bottles, as mentioned above, as long as they are kept horizontally, there is no high risk of spoiling the wine because of the air. When it comes to opened bottles, the subject is more fragile.
Once the bottle is opened, it is directly exposed to light and air. Even though decanting the wine is mostly necessary for both premium and table wines, wine consumers need to expose the wine to oxygen at reasonable levels.
Therefore, the duration of the wines’ aeration should not be too long. Oxidized wines smell strong and unpleasant. For example, when there is half a bottle left to be consumed later, the air gap can be filled with an inert gas like nitrogen or argon or can be vacuumed with a pump to discharge extra oxygen in the bottle to prevent the wine from spoiling.
Read More: How to Recork Wine and Store Recorked Wine?
To conclude, when not provided with ideal conditions as mentioned above, wine quality is easily disrupted, for either opened or unopened bottles.
It is useful to know that when there is a limited possibility to keep wines refrigerated in our places due to lack of space, white and sweet wines must be privileged. Red and fortified wines are more resistant to heat due to the higher amount of tannins that protect the wine against spoilage.
In short, to keep the wine safe and drinkable as long as possible, storing the wine out of sunlight, under ideal temperatures and humidity, and not letting it expose to too much air are key factors.
If one invests in an expensive wine bottle, it is worth considering all these determinants and finding the best-storing conditions.