How Long Can I Store Wine?

Vinotemp Wine Cellar with Cable Racking

When you age wine, you place it inside a dark, cool, and damp space, where it can rest undisturbed for many years.

The bottle should rest horizontally so that the wine is always wetting the cork. During this time, the wine improves, developing flavors, textures, and aromas it would not have had if it had been uncorked shortly after purchase. Cellaring wine is a sophisticated practice with a long history, one that is as enjoyable as drinking the wine itself. That being said, should every wine that enters your home be cellared?

How long you store your wine largely depends on whether or not it was meant to be cellared in the first place. Only 1% of the wine in the modern wine market is meant to be cellared or aged. There is the thirty dollar rule that says that if the wine is less than thirty dollars it should be consumed shortly after purchase. The wine above thirty dollars should be consumed within 5 years of purchase. This does not mean that you should place cheaper bottles of wine on top of your refrigerator and forget about it. Even cheap wine benefits from proper storage, you just do not have to be as patient about waiting to uncork it.

Fine wines that make up the elite 1% of the wine market will require more money, research, and effort to purchase. They will not be widely available on any supermarket shelf. Some may refer to these wines as originating from the Old World or Europe. You are often purchasing these wines directly from the winemaker who has a vineyard or estate they have been managing for over 10 years or from a wine merchant. These are the wines that require great care and thought during the storage process. Fine wines benefit the most from cellaring for over five years, sometimes decades. There are many books, guides, and online wine forums discussing the proper aging of these fine wines.

Where is the Expiration Date on Wine?

You may be wondering how long wine will last when unopened. Some wine will have a “best by” or “drink by” date printed somewhere on the bottle. If you cannot find that, refer to the vintage year on the label. If it is an unopened bottle of white wine, it should be consumed within 1-2 years. If it is an unopened bottle of red wine, it should be consumed within 2-3 years. Unopened boxed wine should be consumed within a year unless it has a printed expiration date that says otherwise. Again, these rules generally apply to cheaper wine that is meant to be consumed shortly after purchase. If you are still unsure, open the bottle of wine and pour a small amount into the glass. Wait a minute or two for it to settle and then give it the sniff test. If it smells vinegary, musky, or just plain putrid, throw it out and do not consume.

How to Keep Wine from Going Bad

Even though most of us are buying and collecting cheaper wine that should be consumed within a relatively short time frame, it does not mean we should simply throw them in the back of the kitchen refrigerator. Even less expensive wine will taste its best when stored properly. Wine’s main enemies are warm fluctuating temperatures, a dry environment, UV rays, and movement. Find a space with a steady 55◦F, 70% humidity, darkness, and where the wine can rest undisturbed. If you are lucky enough to have a subterranean basement that maintains a steady temperature, you can store your wine in that space. Using wine racks will help to organize your bottles and hold them horizontally so the cork remains wet. If you are not lucky enough to have a basement with a steady temperature, a wine cooler or wine cabinet can provide the proper storage environment and prevent your bottles from cluttering your kitchen.

How long you store that bottle of wine depends largely on whether or not it was designed to be aged in the first place. Whether an expensive or cheap bottle, all wine benefits from being stored in the proper environment to ensure it tastes its best when opened. If you have any questions about wine storage, please feel free to contact us with our Contact Form.