Is a Refrigerator the Best Place to Store Open Wine Bottles?

best place to store open wine

A fridge is a fine place to store open bottles of light wines, since they require cooler temperatures than bolder reds. Photo Credit: Flickr CC user Brett Jordan

My grandmother always told me that I should never keep open Champagne overnight. When I got older, I decided to test this theory. Early one evening, I got more than halfway through a bottle of Moet & Chandon (don’t ask me why I opened it knowing I wouldn’t finish it) and since I didn’t want to dump the remaining bottle, I sealed it tightly with a stopper and stood it rightside up in a refrigerator. About six hours later, the wine was still perky and bubbly, and almost 24 hours after that, it remained delicious (although by that time, the bubbles were starting to wane).

This experience supported what I later learned–that a refrigerator can be an effective place to store an open wine bottle in a pinch. Ultimately though, the best place to store open wine bottles depends on the varietal and the type of storage options that are at your disposal.

Storage by Varietal

Generally, a bottle of Champagne has a much shorter shelf life after it’s been opened than a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s because lighter wines oxidize more quickly when they come into contact with air, and sparkling wines have the added problem of carbonation (which dissipates the longer the bottle is open). A delicate sparkling wine will last no more than about 24 hours after it’s open, no matter what type of storage you use, while a bolder sparkling wine, like Krug, can keep for as long as three days if the seal on the bottle is tight.

Crisp, acidic white wines will last slightly longer, at about a week. These wines are almost always enjoyed young, which means they are still vibrant enough to withstand open storage. On the other hand, a full-bodied white wine or an aged white wine will only last three to five days after it’s opened, because the flavors are more subtly rich than vibrant, and their aromatics will dissipate more quickly.

Red wines should keep for about a week, depending on how cool they are stored. The colder the environment, the longer they will last, although if they are stored too cold, this could negatively impact the flavor of the wine over time. Finally, fortified wines last the longest; an open bottle of vintage Port will last about a month in cool storage, while tawny Port will last multiple months, even under relatively poor storage conditions. These wines are designed to overcome the elements.

The Best Place to Store Open Wine Bottles–And How to Seal Them

Certain storage conditions will improve the shelf life of your wine, even if a wine normally doesn’t keep long after being opened. The reason why my bottle of Champagne continued to taste delicious more than 24 hours after it was opened is because I followed two essential tips: a tight seal and cold temperature. Without the seal, the bubbles would escape, as would the wine’s aromatics. The result is a flat, dull wine that’s not worth saving. Without the cold temperatures, the wine would continue to decant and oxidize, resulting in a wine that tastes flabby and bland. To keep your wines crisp and refreshing, here are a few storage options:

Wine Stoppers

Regardless of what type of wine you have or where you store your bottles, your first step should always be to insert a hermetically-sealed wine stopper at the mouth of the bottle. The best types of stoppers will rest flush against your bottle while letting as little oxygen inside as possible. In a pinch, you can use a simple rubber-type stopper that you insert into the bottle by force, or you can invest in a vacuum-sealed stopper. These suck out any air already in the bottle before sealing the new cork on the outside. A simple stopper will allow your wine to sit in the open air for the minimum amount of time for the vintage, whereas a vacuum stopper could allow your wine to sit for an additional few days.

Gas Seals

An alternative to stoppers are inert gas sealers, like a Coravin. A Coravin allows you to drink part of a bottle of wine without even removing the cork. The seal pierces a small hole in the cork, then siphons wine out, replacing the empty space with an inert gas that won’t impact the taste of the wine. When used correctly, a gas sealer could allow your bottles to sit for months after opening, though we hear that when larger amounts of wine are siphoned from the bottle, the wine may not stay good for quite as long.

Wine Fridges

Wines tend to last longer in storage if they are kept under cool conditions, however, you can’t simply put an open bottle in a wine fridge and expect the wine to still taste delicious. You should always combine wine fridges with a stopper storage method to keep excess air out of the bottle. The benefit of using a wine cooler over a standard fridge is that your wines can be kept at serving temperature, allowing their flavors to slowly develop without shutting down completely in a fridge that’s too cold.

Standard Fridges

A standard fridge is the best place to store open wine bottles if you don’t have access to a gas sealer or a wine cooler. They’re not ideal for most wines because their conditions are too cold, which means that flavor development usually stops entirely. In addition, a fridge might have food smells that can impact the flavor of your wine for the worse. I recommend only using fridges to store your resealed sparkling wines or light wines, and letting them warm up slightly before serving. For bold red wines and fortified wine, a cool, dark cabinet will work, as long as it doesn’t reach more than about 65 degrees inside.

Still, the bottom line is that while storage and sealing methods have improved to extend the life of open bottles, the best way to enjoy your wine while it’s at its best is to not to store an open bottle at all, but to drink it as soon as it’s opened. If you’re like me, you won’t have too much of a problem with that.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.