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For the new enthusiast, the complexities of wine storage can be a bit baffling. Which wines are worth saving in the cellar, and which ones should you drink right away to enjoy their best flavors?
Fortunately, there are plenty of experts out there to help guide you, and we’ve distilled their advice into this quick reference guide for you.
In brief, how long wine can be successfully stored depends on what type of wine it is. Here are some guidelines for storing favorite varietals:
- Cabernet Sauvignon: 7 – 10 years
- Pinot Noir: 5 years
- Merlot: 3 – 5 years
- Zinfandel: 2 – 5 years
- Beaujolais: Drink now
- Chardonnay: 2 -3 years
- Riesling: 3 -5 years
- Sauvignon Blanc: 1 -2 years
- Pinot Gris: 1 -2 years
- Champagne: Ready to drink
Keep in mind that 95% of the wines produced today are meant to be drunk “young” – within a few years of production. Fine wines meant for long term storage (“cellaring”) include high quality Bordeaux and Burgundy, Syrah, Shiraz, vintage Port, and white desert wines like Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Red wines keep better than white wines because they have a higher concentration of tannins, an acidic preservative that comes from the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes. They can make wine taste dry and bitter. With proper aging, the tannins precipitate out of the wine, leaving “sediment” in the bottle, and creating a mellow, fruity wine for you to enjoy.
A wine without enough tannins (one that’s been left in the cellar too long) is called “flabby.”
No matter how long you store your wine, it’s important to keep it in ideal storage conditions or the flavor may degrade even more quickly. Some tips:
- The ideal storage temperature for red or white wines is 55F, with humidity between 60% and 75%
- Store corked bottles on their side, so that the cork doesn’t dry out and allow air into the bottle
- Keep bottles out of direct sunlight, because U.V. rays make wine age too fast
- Avoid a lot of vibration from motors and machinery which can disturb the wine’s flavors
- Store wines apart from strong odors that might contaminate the flavor