Loving good wine is one thing, taking care of it is another. In his new book, Wine Simple, renowned sommelier Aldo Sohm, who has spent more than a decade as wine director of the three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, breaks down the fundamentals of tasting, buying, pouring, and, most important, preserving vino. Wine is a delicate, living substance, which means its sensitive to temperature, light, even being in a bottle thats been standing up for too long, he writes. When it comes to storage, it turns out most of us are doing it wrong. (Hot tip: Your arsenal should never live on top of the refrigerator!). In this excerpt on what not to do, the connoisseur busts seven myths and reveals the best ways to store your bottles instead.
Dont Leave Your Bottle Standing Up for More Than a Week
Really! The cork will dry out, leading to oxidation, which results in less-than-pleasant-tasting wine. (And remember: Dont buy the standing bottle at the store; ask for one thats been lying horizontally, which might be kept in the back.) Wine should always be stored horizontally, with the label facing up. If the wine has a screw top, crown cap, or glass cork, dont worry about laying it down.
Dont Keep Your Wine in the Kitchen
Its too hot! Wine starts to get really unhappy at around 78 degrees and starts to cook at 90 degrees. When I first moved to New York, I stored my wine in my oven, since I never used it. Boy, was that embarrassing when the Wine Spectator journalist asked to see where I stored my wine (Even if you dont use your oven, chances are, youre still cooking on the range top, which gives off not-insignificant heat.) And dont stick it on top of the refrigerator either: The fridge not only gives off heat, but those constant vibrations disturb the wine over the long run.
Dont Store Your Whites and Champagne in the Fridge for Longer Than a Few Days
The humidity is too low in there, meaning the cork dries out and all sorts of bad things happen. Over time, the wine absorbs fridge odors through the cork, too. Also, the fridge is too cold for storing your whites and champagnes, which are rather fragile, not to mention that white is sensitive to light! And yes, you can taste the difference between a perfectly stored bottle and the one stored in the fridge for a month.
Dont Store Your Wine on the Top Shelf of Your Closet
Heat rises. If you must keep it in a closet, at least put it on the floor.
Dont Leave Your Wine Near Sunlight
It cooks it. And not in a good way.
Your Apartment/House Is Probably Too Hot, No Matter What You Think
The ideal storage temperature for wine is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, with about 75 percent humidity. That sounds like my basement, youre thinking? Greatas long as its not musty or moldy: Those odors make their way into the bottle over time. So probably not there either!
Which Leads Us to the Wine Fridge
If you realize that youre becoming serious about wine, and buying bottles that you care enough about that you want to maintain them in good condition until you drink themwhether its in six months or 16 yearsyou should start researching wine refrigerators right now. You can get a decent one that holds 12 bottles for under $100 and hide it in your closet or basement, or get one that holds 36 and show it off in your kitchen. (Craigslist can be a good source, as can green building supply sites, which cheaply sell appliances that contractors have ripped out of model homes.)
To recap: Look for a cool, dry, and dark place to stash your vino. As Sohm notes, one option is a small, temperature-controlled fridge (like this $80 one by Cuisinart that holds eight bottles). But if you dont have room for one, consider stashing your bottles in a rack at the bottom of a hall closet (theyll stay relatively cool there). The most practical solution is to simply drink as you go, storing nothing. A few recommendations from Sohm himself to get you started:
Reprinted with permission from Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide From a World-Class Sommelier by Aldo Sohm with Christine Muhlke, copyright 2019. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin RandomHouse. Illustration copyright: Matt Blease 2019.