Wine can be thought of as a living and breathing entity. Maturing a wine is a task that requires patience and storage in ideal conditions for a period of time. The former is one we can not easily address here, but the latter is one we provide some guidance for. The variables involved in the storage of wines include temperature, lighting, and humidity. What is more important than the exact conditions is stability. In other words, it is more important that the conditions remain consistent throughout the maturation than it is to constantly have to adjust conditions in an unstable environment. In this article we address these individually.
Wines can be stored in temperatures from very low (above freezing) to not more than 70 degrees fahrenheit. The warmer the temperature, the faster the wine will mature. For long term storage and maturation it is ideal to keep the wine between 50 and 59 degrees fahrenheit. White wines should be kept at slightly lower temperatures.
Humidity has an affect on the amount of moisture within the bottle. Environments with higher humidity will prevent moisture from being able to evaporate through the cork. Higher humidity has been known to cause growth in mildew and mold that cause the wine to spoil. The higher humidity will also hurt the quality of labels. Conversely lower humidity will cause the cork to dry out causing spoilage from increased oxygen. Ideal humidity is between 60% to 70%.
Light, in general, will have an adverse affect on wine. For this reason, many Wineries will distribute wine in dark green bottles. The color of the glass helps prevent affects of lighting on the wine contained within. Wine should be stored in zero or low light conditions so that it is not affect by this variable.
Wines should be stored in a horizontal position. This keeps the wine in contact with the cork keeping the cork moist. Dry corks can allow additional moisture to escape changing the character of the wine. When storing the wine horizontally on a rack, remember to keep the label facing up so it is easier to identify.
Movement should be kept to a minimum. Wine will inevitably have some sediment contained within it. When the wine is stored, gravity helps settle the sediment. The more a wine is moved the more the sediment is agitated.
Since variations in a wine's storage is considered more detrimental than perfect conditions, you should place your rack or storage unit out of direct sunlight and away from windows where temperature and light conditions vary throughout the day.
Odors can also potentially affect a wine by entering through the cork. You should try to store the wine in an area free from extraneous odors. If you have recently finished your wine rack with a stain or varnish, you should wait until it is completely free from associated odors. It is common to use unfinished wood racks for this reason.
Most wine bottles are sold in the 750 ml size, but the larger magnum size is available and growing in popularity. Wine actually ages better in this larger magnum size because the ratio of possible oxygen to wine is much lower.