In the supermarket I overhead a man suggesting to his partner that he bought a bottle of wine. ‘Oh, no need,’ she replied, ‘we already have two bottles at home.’ I wondered what two bottles they were, whether one was red and the other white. But what about a sparkling or dessert wine?
However, the couple do have a wine cellar—as any home collection, no matter how small or where it is kept—may be called.
But isn’t it difficult to store wine properly? I have received several emails requesting information on this subject so let’s discuss.
Bottles must be stored on their sides.— Like a lot to do with wine the accepted wisdom is not true in all cases. Storing wine on the side is intended to keep the cork moist to stop it shrinking and letting in air that will spoil the wine. However corks are very elastic and you can safely store a wine upright for at least five years without any fear. Wines with screwcap or plastic closures would be better stored upright. So unless you intend aging wine for a very long time you do not need be concerned if you cannot store them on their sides.
Wine should not be stored in the kitchen.—Again, if you intend keeping an expensive rare wine for 15 years then a hot kitchen is not an ideal place for it to mature. But for everyday wines intended for early consumption then it shouldn’t matter. As long as the bottles aren’t above the flames of the hob or touching the oven they will be OK. I keep 24 bottles in my kitchen. I call it my ready rack. I keep wines I want to drink soon and anytime I need a bottle fast and I don’t feel like searching through my cellar, I grab one.
Wines shouldn’t be stored in the fridge.—The main reason is that most fridges vibrate when their engine kicks in, and vibrating a fine red wine is not good for it. But keeping a bottle of white and a sparkling wine in the fridge is fine and you’ll be prepared when unexpected guests call. Those professional ‘wine cooler’s you see that look like fridges have cooling systems that do not vibrate or jar.
Wine should be stored in the dark.—Yes, but if you cannot, like in my kitchen, try to keep them out of direct sunshine and bright lights. Many wine bottles are dark green or brown to protect the wine inside, and if you keeping valuable wine for decades then a dark cool place is required. But wine is very robust and your bottles won’t come to harm for a few months no matter where in your house you keep them.
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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, also available for the Kindle.