Director of Sommology Missa Capozzo has some advice on when to store wine, how to properly store wine, and for how long. Plus, she’s capping off this month’s Ask Missa with an FAQ on cork versus screw cap closures. Read on for more wine wisdom and be sure to submit your own Ask Missa questions to us on our Facebook page!
I store my wine bottles standing up on a shelf. Should I be storing them sideways?
Wines with a natural cork must be stored on enough of an angle so that the wine is covering the cork’s surface, whether that is on its side, upside down, or on a slant. If a bottle is allowed to stand vertically for a continuous amount of time, the air in the bottle between the wine and the cork will dry that cork out, causing it to crack and crumble, which will allow excessive oxygen into the bottle. This, of course, will cause the wine to go bad. If you have a wine with a synthetic cork or a Stelvin closure (screw top), they are considered air tight and can be stored safely standing up on a shelf. Of course we never want to store a wine in direct light or in too warm of an environment, whether it has a natural cork or otherwise.
I’m hearing more and more that wine should be enjoyed, not stored. How long can a wine be stored and still maintain its quality?
Generally speaking, most wines on the market today are intended to be enjoyed rather than aged. If a wine is aged for too long, the components such as acid, tannins, and overall structure begin to breakdown. You might notice less crispness, muted fruit flavors, and less overall structure. There are, of course, some wines that not only allow for bottle aging, but benefit from it. Aging or not aging depends on numerous factors, such as varietal of grape, climate of the vineyard or region that the grapes grew in, overall structure of the wine, and of course winemaker style and preferences. Typically speaking, however, most wines on today’s market should be enjoyed within 5 years from the purchase date.
Is a corked wine a higher quality wine than a wine with a screw cap? Are there certain varietals that are better suited for a screw cap?
A wine with a natural cork is not necessarily higher quality than those with Stelvin closures or even synthetic corks. In fact, you will find that winemakers are using Stelvin closures much more often these days. Not only are they more economical, but they remove the risk of cork taint and offer reduced oxidation. Although you can find almost any varietal with a Stelvin closure, it is quite common to find varietals that are crisp and refreshing, such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Vinho Verde, and Sauvignon Blanc with Stelvin closures to ensure that crispness remains. Not only will the Stelvin closure keep the wine fresh, but there’s no need to search for a corkscrew!