When in Doubt, Store Bottles Sideways
Though some wine bottles have screw-on caps or rubber or plastic corks, which can stand up to being stood up, most still come with natural corks. To maintain an airtight seal that protects the wine from oxygen and outside aromas, a natural cork needs to stay moist and expanded, says Andrea Robinson, a master sommelier and the author of Great Wine Made Simple (Broadway Books, $28, amazon.com). Store the bottle on its side, so the cork stays in constant contact with the wine. (Avoid storing bottles upside down in their packing cases, because sediment can collect on the corks.)
Keep Wine Away from the Light
If a wine is light struck, it has been subjected to bright light for an extended period of time and will taste “numb and dumb,” says Robinson. Although most bottles are made from tinted glass, which offers some UV protection, there’s still a risk of exposure. “The most important thing is to keep the bottles out of direct sunlight,” says Anita LaRaia, author of Pick a Perfect Wine…In No Time (Que, $17, amazon.com). Keeping your wine low to the ground or in a cabinet helps protect it from overhead fluorescent lighting, which can also do damage.
If You Can’t Keep It Cool, Keep It Stable
The ideal wine-storage temperature is 45° F for white wine and 55° F for red wine, but if you’ll be opening the bottle within six months, a warmer room temperature is fine. Just avoid storing bottles in pockets of high heat or in locations where temperatures fluctuate drastically, such as next to the dishwasher or stove. Above all, don’t stash a collection on top of the refrigerator, says Robinson. Overhead lighting and refrigerator exhaust give off a lot of heat, and the constant vibration can adversely affect taste.
Make the Second Time as Good as the First
Don’t feel pressured to down an entire bottle in one sitting. You can enjoy what’s left over as long as you recork the wine and store it properly. First, make sure the same end of the cork goes back in the bottle (the other end has been exposed to mold and odors). If the cork won’t go in easily, use the blade of a corkscrew to shave a notch near the bottom on either side, or pick up a reusable rubber stopper at a wine shop for about $1. Store the wine in the refrigerator, where the cold will help preserve it. (You can keep the bottles upright, since the air seal has been broken.) The acid in white wines, such as Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs, helps keep them fresh for about three days, whereas most reds should be finished in a day or two, says Robinson.