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9 Essential Tips for Storing and Enjoying Wine at Home

Two tulip wine glasses, a wine rack/side table, and red wine in a glass decanter.
LUXU/Mango Steam/Le Chateau

There’s something undeniably special about ordering a glass of wine at a nice restaurant. You get to browse the delicious descriptions, get recommendations from the staff, and have your wine expertly poured into just the right glass. However, there’s no reason you can’t do all of this when enjoying a glass at home.

Okay, so your home wine list might not be as lengthy as a swanky restaurant’s, but that doesn’t matter! With these tips and wine accessories, you can elevate any glass of vino to a four-star restaurant experience.

Store Wine Bottles Sideways

Four bottles of wine in a small countertop wine rack.

Enjoying wine at home begins with how you store it. Instead of just setting those bottles wherever you have counter space, store them sideways to keep the wine fresh.

Keeping wine bottles on their sides helps the cork stay damp, so it can’t dry out and shrivel up. A dry cork can shrink enough to let oxygen into the bottle, spoiling the wine.

Of course, for wines with screw tops or alternative packaging, you can store them any which way, but keep those corked bottles horizontal. A countertop wine rack is an easy way to do it without taking up much space.

Store Your Wine in a Cool, Dark Place

An 18-bottle wine fridge on a white background.

No matter where you store your wine, make sure it’s away from excess heat and direct sunlight. Temperatures around 55 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal, but most wine will keep pretty well at room temperature as long as it’s away from heat and light.

Tinted bottle glass helps protect the wine inside from sunlight damage, but it won’t protect it completely. An ideal way to keep your bottles properly cool and dark is to invest in a small wine fridge.

Keep Wine Away from Appliances

A freestanding wine rack against a wall in a dining room, next to a houseplant.
Mango Steam

Without a wine fridge, you might be tempted to store wine in your normal fridge, on top of the fridge, or in a kitchen cabinet. However, those places can be surprisingly damaging.

Kitchen temperatures tend to fluctuate a lot, thanks to the stove and oven, so you’ll want to keep your wine far from those hot appliances. And regular fridges vibrate when they run: Over time, this consistent motion will make wine spoil. That’s why you can’t store wine in the refrigerator for months on end.

If a wine fridge doesn’t fit in your budget, a freestanding wine rack is an easy way to store bottles somewhere besides the kitchen.

Don’t Keep Wine Too Long

A vacuum bottle stopper against a white background.
Vacu Vin

You might think that the older the wine, the better. However, most wines are actually best within a few years of sale. Only certain wines are made to be aged long-term, and they aren’t usually the ones you’re picking up from a grocery store shelf.

Unless instructed otherwise by the winery, plan to drink your wine within a few years of buying it. And once it’s open, you’ll typically need to finish the bottle within two to five days. However, a quality vacuum stopper can buy you a little more time between opening a bottle and finishing it.

Open and Pour with Care

Two cork pullers, one out of the case and one in a metal case with a red bow around it.

When you do open that bottle, do it with care for the best results. A poorly made bottle opener or rushing to open it can lead to bits of broken cork in your wine—not fun! Avoid this with a sleek, easy-to-use wine “key” that pulls the cork out effortlessly.

If you do end up with a few bits of cork in the bottle, though, no problem. Just pour it through a simple mesh strainer to get the cork out.

Prep for Optimal Drinking

Red wine pouring into a decanter with the decanter's box behind it.
Le Chateau

Don’t pour that wine straight into your glass just yet! Wines, particularly reds, benefit from aeration before drinking.

Aeration means letting wine come into contact with oxygen. This might seem odd, as keeping oxygen out is an important part of wine storage. But when it’s time to drink it, the addition of oxygen actually brings out the best qualities of your vino.

A nice carafe or decanter is an easy and aesthetically pleasing way to aerate wine. Decanting also has the added benefit of keeping sediment out of your glass.

To decant, leave a bottle of red upright for a day or so, so the sediment can settle. Shine a light (like your phone flashlight) through the bottle as you slowly pour it into the decanter, so you can see the sediment inside. Stop when you see sediment ready to pour out. Let the wine sit for about 15-30 minutes before you serve it.

Use a Quality Wine Glass

Two wine glasses, one with red wine and one with white, in front of a corked bottle.

Even if you don’t have a decanter yet, a nice wine glass can seriously improve your drinking experience. And no, you don’t need to buy different fancy glasses for every kind of wine.

The most important thing about a wine glass is that it’s tulip-shaped. The wide bottom helps aerate the wine, while the narrow top funnels the delicious scent to you as you sip. Fill the glass to its widest point for the best results. You can also aerate your wine right in the glass for 15 to 30 minutes.

While there are different types of wine glasses, a nice set of universal glasses is all you really need for enjoying any type of wine at home.

Taste Like a Pro

A closeup of a page in a wine tasting journal.
Wine Folly

Wine tasting is about more than the actual sipping. Rather, it’s a combination of senses working together for a complete experience.

Once you’ve poured your wine into the glass, take a moment to appreciate its color. Different types and ages of wines have unique shades, and it’s fascinating to notice the differences.

Then, give the wine a swirl and hold it up to your nose. The senses of smell and taste are very connected, so scent has a big impact on a wine tasting.

Now, you’re ready to take a sip and see what notes you can detect. Many wineries print a list of flavors on the bottle’s label or post them online, so use those as a guide.

Wine tasting is a skill you’ll develop with practice—and it’s lots of fun to practice! A tasting journal is a great way to track what you’ve tasted and what you like.

Try New Pairings

The cover of 'What to Drink with What You Eat.'

A glass of wine is lovely on its own, but discovering an amazing wine and food pairing can be even more enjoyable. It’s easier than you might think to learn how to pair wines!

Start by learning which styles of wine go with which broad food categories. For example, this useful guide from Food & Wine suggests pairing Cabernet Sauvignon with red meat, and Pinot Grigio with light seafood. Easy!

That said, experimenting is really the best way to find out the pairings you love best. A pairing guidebook will help you discover which pairing “rules” you like, and which ones you want to break.

Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or just relaxing on the couch with a good book, these tips and products will help you enjoy any glass of wine just as you would at an upscale restaurant.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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