How to Store Unopened Red Wine to Preserve its Great Taste

Glass of red wine on a barrel

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Many people love the taste of red wine!

Whether you enjoy light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais, or you’ve graduated to drinking Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons, there seems to be a red wine for every taste and occasion.

It’s no wonder enthusiasts like to keep a few bottles on hand so they can uncork their favorite red wine whenever the mood strikes.

If you have a few bottles of wine in your collection you likely have questions about how to store unopened red wine.

Here are answers to the 7 questions we’re asked most often.

Question #1: What is the Ideal Temperature for Storing Red Wine?

Many of our readers have asked about the correct temperature for storing red wine.

While you likely know that the recommended temperature for serving red wine is between 60 – 68°F (16 – 20°C) but what is the ideal temperature for storing red wine?

The consensus among the experts is that red wine should be stored at 55°F (13°C). This storage temperature should be maintained as consistently as possible. Temperature fluctuations can cause the corks in wine bottles to expand and contract, potentially allowing wine to seep out or air to seep in.

If you don’t have a cellar or wine fridge, a cool spot in your basement may suffice.

Wherever you decide to store your collection, you should never store red wine at temperatures below 25°F (-4°C) because it will freeze, and you’ll have a slushy mess on your hands! You should also avoid storing red wine at temperatures above 68°F (20°C). Warmer environments can cause wine to age prematurely.

Temperature is an important factor you need to keep in mind for short-term or long-term storage but it’s not your only concern.

Red wine being poured into a glass

Humidity is another important consideration for storing red wine that we get asked about frequently.

Red wines should be stored at humidity levels between 60 – 68%. If the humidity is too low, it can cause the corks in your wine bottles to dry out rendering your cherished red wine susceptible to oxidation. If the humidity is too high, it could cause your labels to peel.

If you’re concerned about maintaining correct humidity levels in an area where you’re storing wine, it may be worthwhile to purchase a hygrometer.

Question #3: Does Sunlight Affect Red Wine?

What about sunlight? Does it affect red wine in a negative way?

Whether you intend to store your red wine for a few days or a several years, you should store it away from direct sunlight in a dark place. UV light can change the chemical compounds in red wine causing it to age prematurely which can affect its taste, aroma, color, and mouthfeel.

While most red wines are sold in green bottles which block out damaging UV rays, you should still store them in a darkened environment or in a wine fridge with a glass door that blocks out UV rays.

As an aside, if you ever purchase a bottle of red wine that comes in a clear bottle, you should drink it sooner rather than later. These wines are intended to be drunk now, not stored and aged.

Question #4: Can I Store Unopened Red Wine in the Fridge?

While the refrigerator in your kitchen may seem like an ideal place to store red wine, is it really a good option? Is it OK to store unopened red wine in the fridge?

The short answer is no.

The refrigerator in your kitchen is designed to keep food cold but the temperature is likely set much too low for wine storage. The lighting is most refrigerators can be harsh and the temperature fluctuates throughout the day as people open and close the door.

If you don’t have a cellar or a cool area in your basement where you can store your red wine, you should invest in a wine fridge (often called a wine cooler). These dedicated appliances are designed to keep wine at the correct temperature and humidity.

Question #5: Should You Store Red Wine Upright or on Its Side?

Wine is often displayed upright at the liquor store or grocery store. So, is it OK to store red wine upright at home or is it better to store the bottles horizontally?

Unopened red wine with a cork should be stored horizontally. Keeping the wine in constant contact with the cork will ensure that it doesn’t dry out. This is important for maintaining an airtight seal and protecting your wine.

Wine with a screw top can be stored upright but horizontal storage (in a wine rack or wine cooler) might be the most efficient and convenient way to store these bottles as well.

Question #6: Do I Need to Protect Red Wine from Light and Vibration?

My wine enthusiast friends all say that red wine is particularly sensitive to light and vibration. What’s this all about?

Ideally, you should store your red wine in a dark place away from vibrations that might be caused by a stereo system or the compressor motor in your fridge.

UV Light

Any light source that emits UV rays – sunlight, florescent lighting, and the light in your refrigerator – are bad for your collection and can cause your wine to age prematurely.

Vibrations

Vibrations can disturb the sediment in your wine, disrupting the delicate process that allows wine to age favorably.

Any way you slice it, UV light and vibrations will do your wine more harm than good!

Question #7: How Long Will Unopened Red Wine Last?

Assuming that you follow all of the advice in this article, how long will unopened red wine last?

Most “ready to drink” red wines will be at their peak within 3 – 5 years after production but they can be enjoyed indefinitely, as long as they’re stored correctly. Fine wines made with top-quality grapes by an established vineyard can retain their quality for decades.

Proper Storage Will Protect Your Unopened Red Wine

You’ve likely spent a considerable amount of money on your wine collection. Taking the time to store your unopened red wine correctly is a small price to pay for the pleasure and convenience of being able to open a bottle of your favorite vino whenever a suitable occasion presents itself.

Store your red wines properly and you’ll be able to enjoy them well into the future!

To your good health!

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.