6 Tips for Serving and Storing Wine

Giving, receiving and serving wine happens a lot throughout the year, even more so during the holidays.  As wine professionals, I get a lot of questions about serving and storing wine and so here are six tips to make sure your guests not only enjoy what you have selected for them but that you can also for months and years to come.

Can you put ice in wine?

Tip #1: The short answer is no, especially in the presence of other people. Ice has two major negative effects on wine. First, it dilutes the wine with water as the ice melts and while desirable for drinking scotch, it is not for drinking wine. Second, ice absorbs flavors and aromas from the freezer, transferring those to the wine.

If it is necessary to chill wine in a short time before consuming, there are several reliable methods. Wine wraps (sometimes called cool sleeves) are stored in the freezer until needed. Simply place the bottle in the wrap and it will cool red wine in 5 – 10 minutes and white wine in 10 – 15 minutes. Once done, return the wrap to the freezer for your next bottle. Submerging a bottle in a mixture of ice and water also works and will cool wine almost as quickly as a wine wrap (between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on if it is a full-bodied red or sparkling wine). Finally, wine can be placed directly into the freezer for a short period (15 to 25 minutes), but don’t forget it’s in there.

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Can red wine be served cold?

Tip #2: Cold is relative, and yes, red wines can be served cold depending on the varietal or type. A semi-sweet sparkling Lambrusco, for example, is great chilled. Most red wines, however, will lose their fruitiness if too cold, making the wine taste more bitter than it actually is.  Rosé wines are usually classified with whites, but because of their tint, it is common for consumers to think of them as red wines. These can be chilled considerably.

What is the proper serving temperature for wine?

Tip #3: “Room temperature” for reds is the often-quoted rule of thumb. Keep in mind that this is the “room temperature” of English homes in the 1600s, well before central heating, so room temperature for red wine is between 60 and 65 degrees. This means it is okay to put them in the refrigerator and then bring them out with enough time to come to temperature before a meal. Chardonnay, viognier and fuller white wines are served cooler, between 50 and 60 degrees, with sparkling wines, very crisp white wines, and rosé wines being served as cold as 40 degrees.

What is the proper storage temperature for wine?

Tip #4: To store wine, the temperature should be cool but not freezing. This is typically between 40 and 65 degrees, depending on the type of wine. Wine refrigerators often have separate temperature zones for storing wines of different types. The most important consideration with regard to temperature is to keep it as consistent as possible.

How should wine be stored so that it will last?

Tip #5: Storing wine properly is essential to building and maintaining a collection. Spending money on wine and not keeping it properly will result in many opened bottles that taste like vinegar or worse. Wine with a cork should always be stored on its side, or at least at an angle so that the wine is making contact with the cork at all times. It is even possible to store wine completely upside-down so that the cork remains wet (keeping the cork expanded and the seal tight). Wine should also be stored in the dark, away from direct sunlight and at a consistent temperature.

A wine cellar or wine fridge is the most ideal method for storing wine. If you do not have a wine cellar, a dark closet in the interior of the house (not next to external walls) is the next best option. The goal is to keep temperature variances to a minimum, even if the overall temperature is higher than the temperature that the wine might be served at. To summarize, wine should be kept in a cool location, in the dark and on its side.

White wines are typically not stored and aged and should be consumed a short time after purchase. Full-bodied red wines, such as cabernet sauvignon, can be aged for decades.

How long can you keep wine once it has been opened?

Tip #6: This varies quite a bit based on the wine itself, the conditions in which it is stored and the preferences of the wine drinker. Generally speaking, if a wine has been opened and can be closed with an air-tight wine stopper, it will last two to three days in the refrigerator. Interestingly, young wines will last longer in the refrigerator than older wines. Aged wines deteriorate quickly once opened and should be served at a time when the bottle can be consumed in its entirety.

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Dr. Greg Shaw is an assistant professor with the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration at California State University, Sacramento, and the co-author of a book chapter, Tourism in A Bottle: The California Winescape.