Millennial love for wine is a well-documented trend. Some of our obsession is fueled, in part, by the ever-growing variety of inexpensive wines we can buy that don’t sacrifice quality for a deal. But even a $10 bottle needs to be handled right. After all, wine continues to change in the bottle, long after the cork has gone in. For some wines, like bold reds, that’s a good thing. But not all changes that happen in a wine bottle are good. After all, some varieties, like rosé , aren’t meant to age at all. And all wines, be they bubbly, red, white, or some color in between, can actually be ruined if you’re not storing them the right way.
To get the low-down on the best ways to store wine, we talked to Sayle Milne, founder of Wine Savvy. She confirmed our suspicions that storage really does matter — she knows someone who accidentally ruined a $2,000 bottle of wine by keeping it at room temperature and had to pour it down the drain. While we’re not dropping that kind of cash on a bottle anytime soon, the advice for best storage, be it a Trader Joe’s bargain bottle or a once-in-a-lifetime bottle is the same — and will ensure your glass of wine, no matter the price, is as delicious as it can be.
First: if your wine has a cork, keep it on it’s side. “The cork needs to stay moist — yes, I used that world,” Milne explains. Stored standing up, the corks can dry and split over time, allowing air into the wine, which will oxidize it and ruin the flavor. This doesn’t matter for wine with screw-tops or other alternative stoppers, since they won’t degrade or change over time.
A popular piece of advice is that Champagne and bubbly especially needs to be stored on its side, especially when many vintage bubblies can be very old. That’s actually less important, Milne says. The bubbles means there’s a lot of carbon dioxide inside the bottle, which actually keeps the cork from splitting. That said, she says it’s still optimal if you can.
Wine also needs to be stored at a cool, consistent temperature away from sunlight and too much movement. Direct sunlight, heat, and jostling from the fridge or washing machine, for example, will cause chemical compounds to change, altering the taste of the wine.
Milne, like many wine pros, has a wine fridge. It allows her to store all her wine — reds, whites, and bubblies, at 54°F. While she notes many can be reasonably priced, if that’s not a step you’re ready for, she recommends storing all your wines in your fridge's vegetable bin, instead. Reds are actually supposed to be enjoyed a little below room temperature, just let them warm up a bit before drinking. Whites and bubblies, on the other hand, you can pop in the freezer for a few minutes before serving if you really like them cold.
Not only is a cold white wine super refreshing, but a cold bubbly is safer, too. “ The colder those bubbles are, the least likely you are to have a cork fly off out of your control,” Milne says.
After it's open, the wine will continue to change, making it difficult to store. "Air is a friend to wine at the beginning but too much exposure to air and the wine turns to vinegar," Milne says. To make it last longer, she recommends buying a Vacu Vin, which costs under $10 and will remove most of the remaining air in the bottle. The wine can be tightly resealed and stored in the fridge for up to a few days. That said, how long a wine is palatable after opening has a lot to do with the wine itself. Cheaper wines might not last as long, even vacuum-sealed. If you are regularly pouring extra wine down the drain, consider buying in boxes (which reduces air exposure and can last up to a few weeks) or cans.
If you don’t have the fridge space, just be sure to store your wines in as cool and dark a place as possible — and consider making an exception in the warm summer months, especially when traveling can mean keeping the A/C off for days at a time. Turning proper wine storage into a habit can make one of our favorite drinks even better.