They say that fine wine gets better with age, and this is certainly the case for a number of varieties.
In the right conditions, wine can develop a rich and varied flavour, so here are our top tips for storing wine effectively, as well as some information on how long different types can last.
Storing unopened wine
Before opening a bottle of wine, it should be stored in a dark space that has a stable level of humidity and little-to-no temperature fluctuation. The ideal storage temperature is 10–13˚C, but keeping the heat level consistent is crucial for preventing oxidisation – the primary reason wine can taste ‘off’.
Unopened wine should also be kept horizontal, especially if sealed with a natural cork. Bottles with synthetic corks or screwcaps can also be stored upright. Keep wine out of direct light to prevent it becoming ‘light struck’ and having an unpleasant smell.
Humidity is important, as it prevents the cork from drying out and stops any oxygen sneaking into the bottle. Many wine coolers come with humidity controls: 70% is the perfect level, as anything above this can cause mould to grow on the cork.
Try not to store wine bottles with any strong-smelling food – wine breathes, and the smell can be affected by anything around it, so a fridge is not the best place for storing unopened wine.
Limit the amount of movement the wine experiences too: the less it moves, the less the flavour will be affected.
If you’re a real wine connoisseur, then you can impress whoever you’re sharing your bottle with by opening it at the perfect temperature:
• Red wine should be warmer than other wines when served. Deep reds can be between 15 and 19˚C; lighter reds should be closer to 13˚C.
• Rosés and white wines need to be kept at 8–14˚C for serving.
• Champagnes and sparkling wines need to be kept cooler than anything else, at 6–8˚C.
Storing opened wine
As oxygen is the enemy of a good wine, minimise exposure to the air once a bottle has been opened. Wine-stoppers – or even the original cork – can keep the bottle tightly shut, and these should be used as soon as possible once you have filled your glass.
If you are using the original cork, try to keep it the same way up as it was before the bottle was opened. The wine has already been exposed to one half, so putting that half of the cork back in the bottle prevents any unnecessary changes in flavour or aroma.
Funnelling the remaining wine into a smaller bottle can reduce how much air it comes into contact with. Just like before, limit the amount of light and heat that the wine encounters.
If re-sealed with a cork, red wine can be kept out for a few days in a dark, stable place, however, it can develop a bit of a vinegary taste the longer it is left open. Whites and rosés are typically best kept in the fridge once opened, and will only normally keep for up to three days.
Champagne or sparkling wine should be sealed immediately once it’s been poured – the bubbles will quickly disappear if the bottle is left open. It should then be kept in the fridge to maintain the flavour.
These will all be fine to cook with once these time periods have passed – wine has no real ‘expiry date’, but the taste will change the longer they are left open. If your wine has been kept open for more than a few days, and it does not taste the same as before, use it in a recipe rather than pouring it away. Reds are great for stews or Bolognese, and whites can make a delicious fish sauce.
How long does wine last?
Red wines can last 2–10 years in correct storage conditions, with the range depending on the balance of acid, sugar, and tannins. Some types of red are more suited to ageing than others: Cabernet Sauvignon can be kept for 7–10 years, whereas Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel are best consumed within five years.
White wine does not age as well as red, but of all the different types, Chardonnay and Riesling will last the best. Chardonnay can be kept for 2–3 years, although really quality ones can have a lifespan of up to 7 years. Riesling will typically keep for up to 5 years.
Unlike the other two colours, rosé will not benefit at all from ageing.
The majority of Champagnes are already aged before purchase, but if you want to keep them a bit longer, they will last for up to 3 years. This increases for vintage Champagnes: they can have a lifespan of 5–10 years.
Whichever colour or grape you are intending to age, increased heat will cause premature ageing, so it is best to ensure you keep the conditions just right to prolong your wine’s lifespan.