Exploring the technique and tradition of food and wine through storytelling

Questions of Storage and Aging

After buying a bottle, I have had people ask how and how long they can store their new bottle. First, if you plan to drink the wine within a month or two of purchasing, don’t worry about it. You could stand the wine bottle upright on your counter. The main things to look out for are to keep it away from heat and light (wine’s two main nemeses). Do not store it on top of the refrigerator because of the warm air. Do not store it in an area where it will be exposed to sunlight through a window.

If you wish to keep your bottle longer than a few months, there are precautions you must take. Store the wine horizontally. Most red wines, sparkling wines, and some white wines use a porous cork to seal the bottle. By keeping the bottle horizontal, the liquid inside stays in contact with the cork. The moisture causes the cork to remain expanded and keep a tight seal. If the cork were to dry out, then oxygen would more easily get into the wine and ruin it.

Cork Tree

The right setting for wine is in a cool and dark area. Imagine the conditions in a wine cellar. Ideally, you would have the wine stored between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want to keep unopened red or white wine in your refrigerator, that will not hurt the wine. Refrigerators usually sit at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. If you decide to do this, just remove red wine one hour before serving and white wine 15 minutes before serving. This time sitting at room temperature should get your wines to their proper serving temperature.

Once opened, how should I store the bottle if I do not finish it? Seal the bottle and put it into the refrigerator. That will slow down the process of wine turning into vinegar. There are special tops with vaccuum pumps that will allow you to pump the oxygen out of your wine bottle and slow down the oxidizing even more. Click here for an example.

Once opened, how long can I drink the wine? Usually, the wine will retain its quality for about 3 days. You must know that once opened, the clock starts ticking. Wine begins the process of turning to vinegar. This oxidized wine will not hurt you, but it just gets more unpleasant to drink the longer you wait.

How do I transport wine? It is best to avoid shaking wine. Place it in a secure spot in your car where it will not move much and it will not get too hot. Avoid leaving it in your car or trunk on a hot day!

What wines can I age? Wines that have high content of tannin, acid, alcohol or all three. Most red wines can age at least 5 years. Depending on the grape, you can push some red wines closer to 10 years or more. Pinot Noir should be drank within 5 years. Cabernet Sauvignon could be aged 7 to 10 years.

In general, white wines will not age like red wines. Most white wines should be drank within about 2 years. Of course, there are exceptions.

  • Examples of red wines high in tannin: Sagrantino, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Tannat
  • Examples of white wines that can age: Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc
  • Fortified wines will age for a very long time because they are fortified with a neutral grape spirit and the high alcohol content keeps them safe
  • Madeira is a wine that is exposed to heat and light when it is made, so there is not much you can do to hurt it
  • Some sherries are oxidized so they too can age a long time

What is happening when a wine ages? The cork is slowly allowing oxygen into the bottle. Wines will begin to lose their bright fruit flavors and take on a more dried fruit characteristics (like dried figs, dried plums, or golden raisins). Red wines will turn from vibrant red to dark brick red or brown. The pigment in the wines will attach to the tannins and precipitate, softening the wine as the color changes. White wines will begin as clear wines and turn to yellow, then gold, then orange wines as they age.

To put it simply, wine has three stages. First, it is too young to drink. It could be too tart, or too abrasive. It will gradually change over time in the bottle moving towards its prime. When it reaches its prime, the development of the wine plateaus for some time until it becomes too old. Then, you have missed the bus. I once opened a 20 year old bottle of red wine and it had a horrible salami aroma. It was undrinkable.

What happens in barrel aging? Oak Barrels have their own tannins that are added to the wine. Therefore, one effect of barrel aging is adding body to a wine. Oak wood contains a compound called vanillin, which imparts a vanilla flavor to the wine. Other flavors from the oak are dill, baking spices, or cedar. Barrel aging can create an environment for malolactic fermentation which can give a buttery aroma to wine. Barrels allow small amounts of oxygen through the pores, gently maturing the wine.

For my daughter, Katherine’s first birthday I purchased 3 bottles of Sagrantino. Sagrantino is one of the most tannic wines around. This means excellent aging potential. I mean it will easily age 20 to 30 years. Usually, Sagrantino is blended because the tannins are so strong that the wine is just undrinkable when young. 

My intention is to open a bottle with Katherine when she turns 21.  The year will be 2040. She will taste wine made from grapes that were harvested in 2015.  For me, it is extremely rare that I get to drink wine that is 25 years old. I now wonder if I ever have drank wine that old.

This is an opportunity that I want to give Katherine. Then, we can decide what to do with the other two bottles. Maybe we can sell them. Maybe her mom and I can secretly open a bottle early. We will see.

Comments (4):

  1. Sheila gray

    June 5, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful information. I have a better insight on wine storage. Keep up the good work. 🍷

    • justsommchef@gmail.com

      June 5, 2021 at 11:22 pm

      Thank you so much Sheila! I am so grateful you enjoyed it.

  2. Joe Ferrantelli

    June 7, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    I hope to have a sip of that Sagrantino at Katherine’s 21st birthday! Salute

    • justsommchef@gmail.com

      June 7, 2021 at 11:56 pm



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