There’s nothing like the disheartening realisation when opening up your favourite bottle of Puligny-Montrachet (or any white wine for that matter) to find that it hasn’t been stored at the right temperature. Storing wine at the right temperature keeps all those unfavourable chemical interactions from happening. If the wine is too cold or too hot, the molecules in the wine can start to slow down, break down or even change. To keep the character of the wine and support it in its evolution, keeping it cool and in a consistent temperature are the two most important things to consider. Switching from high and low temperatures can have in impact on the corks lifespan too and if that happens, well it’s possible you may have to say goodbye to your beloved bottle – and what a waste of wine that would be!
White wines should be stored in a cool dark place away from any direct sunlight or heat and at around 12-15 °C. You can usually find this temperature in a cellar, a garage, or away from the kitchen and radiators in the house. Two good options for storage include a basement or even just a cabinet with a door that keeps the bottle away from light. There is no difference in the temperature at which you store red or white wine long term.
Additionally, you should regulate the humidity of the space that has been dedicated to wine storage. The more humidity, the more likely mould is. You’ll see that the labels on the bottle become loose and eventually deteriorate. If it is a damp space, consider using a dehumidifier, or find somewhere else.
Lastly, store your white wine on its side, especially if it has a cork instead of a screw cap. Having it on its side keeps the liquid touching the cork and that keeps it from potentially drying out. Corks can shrivel and when that happens, oxygen can seep in and damage the wine. This is more important when ageing wine for a longer duration, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.
Storing white wine doesn’t have to be complicated, you just need to follow the holy grail of keeping things fresh – cool, dark and dry. Stick to these three rules and your wine should withstand the test of time.
Storing white wine before serving is a different matter however, because some white and sparkling wines are enhanced by being slightly more chilled, because the cooler temperature helps to lift the acidity and aromas. Have you ever had a glass of warm white wine on a hot summer’s day, where it tasted flabby and sour – that is what you want to try and avoid! Similarly, have a bold and rounded oaky chardonnya too cold completely dulls the character profile. It’s a fine balance, that’s for sure!
A colder temperature can sharpen the edges of the wines, bringing out zingy citrus notes. That’s why it is suggested to store white wines with high acidity like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling before serving at a temperature of 4-7°C. If you aim to chill it at a colder temperature, it gives it some leeway on warming up and still maintaining its gusto.
Full-bodied white wines like rich and oaked Chardonnays benefit from being served slightly warmer, between 7-12°C. That’s because the warmer temperature brings out the fruity flavours and aromas and softens the edges so those bolder buttery notes are not lost amongst the cold and acidity – fruitier hints tend to withdraw in cooler temperatures. Take these wines out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving to let the temperature rise slightly.
Lastly, sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Champagne should be served at an optimum temperature about around 8-10°C. If it is too cold, there will be fewer bubbles and the taste buds will be numbed, but if your wine is served to warm the carbon dioxide will be released too quickly and the some of those wonderful aromas will be disrupted. Some recommend a temperature of between 4-7°C, so chill it at that and then let it rest for a moment. In older vintages, serve them slightly warmer to bring out those toasted pastry-like notes.