If You're Storing Wine in the Fridge or Vodka in the Freezer, You Need to Read This

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Find yourself with too many bottles of wine and spirits on hand and unsure where (or how) to preserve them? This is one storage situation we’re officially filing under the Good Problems to Have category. Perhaps you just shelled out big bucks on a fancy bottle of Barolo and you want to be certain you’re keeping its quality intact. Whatever “problem” is “plaguing” you, we tapped two wine and spirit experts for all the storage smarts—and wine mishaps to avoid—to keep your best bottles kickin’ for years to come.

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Saving a Bottle of Wine Instead of Drinking It

According to Richard Vayda, the director of wine studies at the Institute of Culinary Education, “aging” that special bottle might not be the best idea. “Holding on to wines too long would be the most common mistake I see people making,” he says. “There is this idea that wines are mostly better aged, when in reality only a small percentage of wines are meant to be held for any length of time. Most wines available are pretty ready to drink when purchased. Better to do some research to see if a wine is age-able.” We’re sold.

Aging Wines Without the Proper Environment or Equipment

The next question to address when it comes to long-term wine storage at home is whether to invest in a proper wine fridge. “Certainly, if the plan is to store a number of age-able wines for a length of time, this would be a wise idea,” Vayda says. Generally, these coolers are designed to store any type of wine in better holding conditions. They control ambient temperature inside the cooler to maintain “cellar temperature” (which typically means under 60˚F). Better models will feature lower vibration and humidity control.

RELATED: These Red Wines Are Actually Best Served Chilled, Says a Sommelier

Storing Wine in the Refrigerator

According to Vayda, we should always avoid storing wine for any length of time in standard refrigerators—even white and sparkling wines. “They’re okay for bringing wine down to service temperature (i.e., before serving), but not good for product quality for long-term storage,” he says. “Rather, look for a location in your home that has the best conditions available.” His key factors are as follows:

  • No direct sunlight
  • As cool and stable temperature as possible
  • Low vibration

“In my own apartment, I have a wine cooler for better bottles, but a majority of my wines are kept on racks in a dark foyer and they live just fine,” he says. 

Storing Wines Above the Fridge

It isn’t just the inside of the fridge you should avoid—it’s the outside, too. “Keeping wine bottles or racks above your refrigerator is not a good idea, as the heat given off to cool the inside often makes this one of the warmest places in the home,” Vayda says.

Placing Your Bar Cart Next to a Window.

When it comes to wine, the bar cart next to the window is not a good idea due to the area’s frequently fluctuating light and temperature. “For most homes, a dark basement space or a closet usually makes for a good location to hold all wines.” Think of it as a makeshift wine cellar. “Then, adjust the temperature as desired—meaning feel free to chill whites and bubbly in the fridge—only when ready to serve,” Vayda says.

Finally, it’s important to keep wines with natural corks stored on their side to maintain the cork’s integrity.

Assuming You Need to Store Certain Spirits in the Fridge or Freezer

“All spirits are inherently shelf-stable, at any temperature, and under all lighting conditions,” says Anthony Caporale, the director of spirts education at the Institute of Culinary Education. Yes, even that pricey bottle of vodka. (Clearly, wine and spirits are wildly different in this regard.) “They will not freeze, even if stored in a freezer. Windows, light, and temperatures below about 150˚F will not affect them at all, either. And the room they are kept in does not matter in the least, other than making them more accessible to drink when you’re in that room.”

According to Caporale, liqueurs can be treated exactly the same as spirits. “Some, like unopened bottles of limoncello and Irish cream, are often enjoyed chilled and may be stored in the refrigerator. But this is just so ice does not need to be added,” he says. “Refrigeration isn’t needed to preserve the liqueur.” Some low-ABV liqueurs (with about 20 percent ABV or 40 proof) may become slushy in very cold freezers, but this will neither hurt nor help them. “Just thaw before drinking—or enjoy them slushy!” Caporale adds.

Storing Spirits With Pour Spouts

While the ambient temperature of your home won’t affect your top-shelf bottle of tequila, capping it with a pour spout permanently definitely could. “Storing bottles with pour spouts in them may allow fruit flies to get inside, so tightly recapping is better for more than short-term storage only,” says Caporale. Eek. 

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